updated 11/16/2008 5:40:24 PM ET 2008-11-16T22:40:24

Australia will invest millions of dollars in non-lethal whale research to show Japan that the animals do not need to be killed in order to be studied, the government announced Monday

The $3.87 million campaign begins just ahead of the Southern Ocean summer whaling season, when Japan regularly kills more than 1,000 whales for research. Critics say the hunts are a cover for commercial whaling, banned since 1986.

The Australian campaign will invest in aerial surveys, satellite tags and genetic studies.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said researchers did not need to use "grenade-tipped harpoons".

"Australia does not believe that we need to kill whales to understand them," Garrett said.

The fund will also carry out an assessment of Japan's scientific whaling program.

Japan's Fisheries Agency said last week that its whaling fleet is expected to up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season.

Japan kills about 1,200 whales a year in two hunting expeditions under a scientific program that Tokyo says provides crucial data on populations, feeding habits and distribution of the mammals in the seas near Antarctica and the north Pacific Ocean.

Japan's research hunts are allowed by the International Whaling Commission, but opponents — including the Australian and New Zealand governments — say they are killing the whales for commercial purposes.

The Japanese have hunted whales for centuries, and whale meat was widely eaten in the lean years after World War II. However, it has plunged in popularity in today's prosperous Japan.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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