Japan announced Friday that it will proceed with the annual "research whaling" it conducts in the Northwest Pacific Ocean but it will reduce the number of whales it takes.
The announcement follows a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice that determined Japan's whaling operations in the Antarctic, which it did by exploiting a scientific research loophole in a 1986 international moratorium on whaling, were not done for the scientific purposes Japan claimed.
Japan's Pacific whaling operations were not affected by the March 31 court order, but the nation will begin its Pacific whaling season later than usual this year, perhaps as a response to US President Barack Obama's planned trip to Japan.
The US is a spoken opponent of whaling, but a strong political ally of Japan, and Obama's April 22 visit to Japan would have clashed with the traditional beginning of the Pacific whaling season. The Pacific whaling operation will begin this year on April 26, a day after Obama leaves Japan, according to AFP.
Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Friday that the Pacific whaling quota would be reduced to about 210 from the current 380, according to Al Jazeera.
Japan also said it will continue its Antarctic whaling expeditions, but it will not take any whales from those waters, instead limiting its activities to observation and research. Tokyo has called off the 2014-2015 hunt but it may later resume whaling under a redesigned research program, according to AFP.
Environmental campaigners have encouraged Tokyo to act in the spirit of the ICJ ruling and discontinue its Pacific whaling operations.
Although whaling faces strong international opposition, Japan has a long cultural history of hunting whales, and the practice provides the economic backbone of many communities in Japan.
"If the research program is discontinued, our company will no doubt go bankrupt this year," Minoru Ito, president of Ayukawa Hogei Co., a fishing company that takes part in the annual whale hunts from the tsunami-hit city of Ishinomaki, told the Japan Times.
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