19 Apr 2014

Japan to redesign Antarctic whaling

7:07 am on 19 April 2014

Japan is to redesign its Antarctic whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific, after the International Court of Justice ruled it was a commercial hunt masquerading as research.

Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3 in port in Yamaguchi.

Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3 in port in Yamaguchi. Photo: AFP (file)

This means whaling ships could be back in the Southern Ocean next year.

Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the target would be 210 Pacific whales - about half the current catch.

The case was taken to the ICJ in The Hague by Australia in May 2010 with New Zealand's backing. The court ruled that Japan's Antarctic whaling was commercial, not scientific as Tokyo had argued.

It said Japan had failed to explain why it needed to kill so many whales simply for research purposes.

An international moratorium on whaling has been in place since 1986. A year later, Japan began what it called scientific whaling.

"We will carry out extensive studies in cooperation with ministries concerned to submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission, reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict," said Mr Hayashi.

"Following this, our country will firmly maintain its basic policy of conducting whaling for research, on the basis of international law and scientific foundations, to collect scientific data necessary for the regulation of whale resources, and aim for resumption of commercial whaling."

However, Mr Hayashi on Friday confirmed an earlier announcement that the 2014-15 hunt in the Southern Ocean would not go ahead.

Last month's court ruling did not apply to Japan's two other whaling programmes in coastal waters and in the northwestern Pacific.

Mr Hayashi said the northwestern Pacific hunt, which is due to leave port on 26 April, would continue, albeit in a slightly reduced form.

A statement issued by the fisheries agency said the hunt would be scaled back to net around 100 minke whales in coastal waters, down from 120 last year, and 110 other whales offshore, down from 160. No minke whales would be caught.

The BBC reprots meat from whales is sold commercially in Japan.