Japan started Wednesday what it calls research whaling in the northwestern Pacific for fiscal 2017, with whaling vessels departing coastal areas.
The whaling fleet is planning to capture up to 43 minke whales and 134 sei whales through late September to collect data on stomach contents and skin samples among other things, according to the Fisheries Agency.
A total of two research vessels left the ports of Shimonoseki in western Japan and Shiogama in the northeast. The 8,145-ton Nisshin Maru, the mother ship of the fleet, is slated to leave Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, on Thursday.
On Tuesday, whaling began along the northwestern Pacific coast off Abashiri, Hokkaido, with five vessels slated to catch up to 47 mink whales through mid-July. Japan also plans to catch maximum of 80 minke whales along the country’s Pacific coast in other areas.
The agency has submitted to the International Whaling Commission a plan to catch a total of 304 whales per year along the coast and offshore in the period of fiscal 2017 to 2028. But an antiwhaling group of IWC members has raised an objection.
Japan’s so-called research whaling has been a target of international criticism as meat from the hunted animals is sold after the scientific examinations have been completed. Critics say it is a cover for commercial whaling.
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to suspend its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, saying it violated the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.