Every year, a Japanese whaling fleet embarks on a Antarctic hunt in the name of science and research. This year's haul counted 333 dead minke whales.

According to a report from The Guardian, the Japanese fleet consisted of five ships, three of which returned to the Shimonoseki port last Friday morning. The hunt kicked off last November, an annual event that the country's Fisheries Agency described as research to learn more about the ecological system of the Antarctic Sea.

This annual slaughter of 333 minke whales is part of a project called New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A), which is mandated by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research to kill 4,000 whales over 12 years, a report from Gizmodo revealed. Last year, 333 whale carcasses were also brought to shore for the program.

"Since a majority of both the males and females taken were mature, this indicates that the species is reproducing healthily," the Japanese agency concluded after this year's whale hunt.

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The International Court of Justice (IJC) as well as environmentalists all over the world are highly critical of the annual whale program, saying the primary goal of the expedition is not research but to hunt whales for their meat.

"Each year that Japan persists with its discredited scientific whaling is another year where these wonderful animals are needlessly sacrificed," Humane Society International's Executive Vice President Kitty Block said. "It is an obscene cruelty in the name of science that must end."

A global moratorium under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has prohibited hunting whales since 1986. However, Japan manages to sidestep this restriction by claiming that their whaling hunts are for scientific research.

There are also campaigns in Tokyo that are trying to justify a return to commercial whale hunting because of a big enough population. Japan, after all, has hunted and eaten whales for centuries, although consumption of their meat has greatly declined in the past few decades.

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