Japan will add large fin whales to its list of commercial whaling species, government spokesperson Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Thursday, five years after leaving an international body that regulates the commercial hunt of the marine mammals.

Japan resumed commercial whaling in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zones in 2019, on withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

This week, its Fisheries Agency sought public comment on a draft revision of its aquatic resource control policies that would allow commercial catching of fin whales.

The government will continue to promote whaling and take the necessary diplomatic steps, Hayashi told a regular news conference.

"Whales are important food resources and should be sustainably utilized, based on scientific evidence," said Hayashi, the chief Cabinet secretary, referring to widening the allowable catch to include fin whales.

"It's also important to inherit traditional food cultures in Japan."

Japan caught a total of 294 minke whales, Bryde’s whales and sei whales last year, the Fisheries Agency said, which currently limits commercial whaling to the three relatively minor species.

Whale consumption in Japan peaked in the early 1960s but did not become widespread as other meat became more easily available.

Japan drew criticism from environmental groups for launching what it called scientific research whaling in 1987, following an IWC regulation that banned commercial whale hunts.

Australia and New Zealand were among the nations that expressed disappointment when Japan declared it was withdrawing from the IWC in 2018.