Japan is set to dispatch its whaling fleet Tuesday for the Antarctic for a three-month hunt, the government said Monday. The move comes despite international criticism and protests over the killing of whales for research.
The announcement comes days after Japan submitted its final plan to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) after the commission's scientific committee said earlier this year that the country was unable to justify its argument that the mammals needed to be killed for research.
According to the revised plan, Tokyo plans to catch up to 333 minke whales each year, about one-third of what it used to kill earlier, over the next 12 years, the Japanese fisheries agency and the foreign ministry said in a joint statement Monday, the Associated Press reported. The mission will include the 8,000 ton mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, along with three other vessels, the statement read. In addition, a total of 160 crew members will participate in the mission. The plan will reportedly be evaluated after six years.
The mission will reportedly be the first since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) barred Japan from conducting the operations, forcing Tokyo to revise its Antarctic whaling plans. According to the ICJ, Japan has caught about 3,600 minke whales since its last whaling program began in 2005.
The U.N.'s top legal body ruled last year that the hunts served no legitimate scientific purpose. The ruling came in response to a legal challenge from Australia, which said that Japan was using scientific exemption as a cover to continue commercial whaling. Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but Japan had continued its hunts under an exemption for scientific research purposes.
"Claims that Japan's whaling program is 'scientific' are utterly bogus, and everyone knows it. #stopwhaling," Australia's Animal Protection wrote on its Twitter account Monday.
Scientists from other nations, including New Zealand, Britain and the U.S., have argued that non-lethal scientific research can also yield fruitful results similar to those that call for animal slaughter.