Japan Seeks to Bring Back Antarctic Whaling Next Year

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Japan is seeking international support for its plans to hunt minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean next year by scaling down a research program that the U.N. top court rejected earlier this year, fisheries officials said Wednesday. Whaling for research purposes is exempt from the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, and Japan has conducted hunts in the Atlantic and Pacific on that basis. But in March, the International Court of Justice ruled the Antarctic program wasn't scientific and must stop, saying it produced little research and didn't explain why so many whales had to be killed for study.

Japan's Fisheries Agency is working on a revised program to be submitted to the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee around November. The agency will announce its basic plan at the Sept. 15-18 IWC meeting in Slovenia. Approval from the scientific committee isn't mandatory, but any attempt by Japan to resume whaling would likely face intense scrutiny over whether it complies with the court ruling. Japan set a catch target of 935 minke whales in 2005 but came close only the following year. The catch has fallen since, mainly because demand for whale meat has plunged at home. Japan also plans to stop catching humpback and fin whales.