Japan has decided to follow through with its controversial plan to kill more than 300 minke whales in the name of “scientific research” as stated by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The country dispatched a whaling fleet today (its first in over a year) to the Antarctic where workers will hunt the creatures for the next three months.
Japan’s decision to begin this years whale hunt comes after last year’s ruling by the International Court of Justice who, after an investigation, commanded the country to halt their expedition stating that the mission was not for “scientific research” and added that the country had also violated the global moratorium on commercial whale hunting. The court ruled that Japan had attempted to use its scientific research program in order to disguise commercial whaling.
In response to last year’s court ruling, Japan reinvented its Antarctic whaling operation with a new program called the New Scientific Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (PDF). However, anti-whaling activists claim that Japan is still up to its old games, using the new name to mask its previous unlawful activities.
This expedition began despite global opposition, including calls from some world leaders to halt the hunt along with the general outcry from animal rights activists. Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt and New Zealand’s acting Foreign Minister Todd McClay were both opposed the deadly mission, and Hunt publicly condemned the country.
“There is no need to kill whales in the name of research,” Hunt argued during a statement.
Minke whales are, on average, smaller than most other whales–weighing in roughly at 10 tons and growing to a length of 26 feet. They are distinguished by their tall and curved dorsal fins. According to the American Cetacean Society, there are more than “one million minke whales in the world, although they are rarely spotted in tropical climates.”
In an article published by Aljazeera America, an IWC representative was quoted as saying that “the minke whale population that is being hunted is considered to be sustainable… But obviously, it comes down to the numbers being hunted.”