The Australian government voiced its concern Tuesday at Japan's return to commercial whaling following its departure from the International Whaling Commission at the end of June.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Sussan Ley said in a joint statement that Canberra urges Japan to return to the IWC "as a matter of priority."

"While the Australian Government welcomes the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean, we are disappointed that Japan has withdrawn from the Convention and is resuming commercial whaling," the statement read.

"The Australian Government's position on whaling has not changed. We remain opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called 'scientific' whaling."

The statement comes a day after the Nisshin Maru, a whale factory ship belonging to Kyodo Senpaku Co., and two other whalers left the port of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture to hunt minke, sei and Bryde's whales offshore.

Five small vessels from six operators also left Kushiro in Hokkaido on Monday. The fleet returned later in the day with two minke whales they caught in coastal waters.