April 1 (UPI) — A fleet of three whaling vessels returned to Japan after a four-month mission with hundreds of whale carcasses Friday.
Whalers brought back 333 minke whales from the Antarctic Ocean to the western city of Shimonoseki aboard the 8,145-ton Nisshin Maru whaling factory ship and two catcher vessels.
The Fisheries Agency said the fleet had executed the mission, which involved harpooning the whales, to conduct “research for the purpose of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Ocean.”
A loophole in the International Whaling Commission that permits scientific whaling allowed Japan to conduct the whaling program for this season.
Moving forward Japan and other countries will be required to submit their proposed catch to a scientific working group within the IWC, which will ask for justification about why killing the whales is required for the study.
Activist groups, including Humane Society International, have accused Japan of abusing the loophole to conduct commercial whaling.
“There is no robust scientific case for slaughtering whales,” vice-president of Humane Society International, Kitty Block, said. “Commercial whaling in this or any other guise does not meet any pressing human needs and should be relegated to the annals of history.”
Japan killed 333 whales during its 2016 season after the previous season was suspended when the IWC ruled the hunt to be commercial and ordered a halt.