Japanese fleet returns from Antarctic hunt with 333 whales

A Japanese whaling fleet has returned to port after killing more than 300 minke whales in its annual Antarctic hunt. The Fisheries Agency said Friday that Japans five-ship fleet killed 333 minke whales during the four-month expedition.

Chris Burgess, of Tsuda Juku University in Tokyo, told the site the issue had been framed as Japan against the west, with the Japanese seeing themselves as "victims of western discrimination, imperialism and "Japan bashing".

The agency described the mission to kill the whales as "research for the objective of studying the ecological system in the Antarctic Sea" in a press release.

But environmentalists and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) say the goal is to hunt whales for their meat.

Animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI) has been calling for an end to the cruel tradition of Japanese whaling.

"There is no robust scientific case for slaughtering whales", said Kitty Block, HSI executive vice president, in a statement ahead of the fleet's return.

This picture released by the Australian Customs Services shows a mother whale and her calf being dragged on board a Japanese ship after being harpooned in Antarctic waters.

The International Whaling Commission, of which Japan is a member, placed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986. The document, titled NEWREP-A (New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean), set out its planned catch of 4,000 minke whales over 12 years - that's where the 333 quota per year comes from. Japan called off its 2014 hunting season, but submitted a new document to the IWC in the lead-up to the 2015-2016 whale hunt.

But it makes no secret of the fact its whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is even served for lunch in schools.

"It was great that we have achieved our plan". Whale meat hasn't been popular in Japan since after WWII, and it's now more of a novelty than a staple.

Past missions have been hampered by a confrontational campaign on the high seas by environmentalists Sea Shepherd, though Japan has won some relief from the group through the courts.

  • Leroy Wright