Japan whaling fleet kills 400 minkes
2 April 2003
TOKYO (AP) - A Japanese whaling fleet killed 400 minke whales during a five-month scientific expedition in Antarctic waters, the government said Wednesday.
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to protect the endangered marine mammals but approved restricted hauls for Japan's research program a year later. The commission also sets quotas for native peoples who traditionally hunted whales for food.
The Japanese government says the hunts help it gauge the impact of whale herds on fisheries stocks and provide data on the mammals' migration patterns and population trends.
Critics call the program commercial whaling in disguise because the meat from the slaughtered whales is sold later to wholesalers and ends up in restaurants.
Whale meat is considered a delicacy in Japan, whose government says whale herds have recovered from near-extinction.
Japan, Iceland and Norway are among those nations favoring a lifting of the IWC ban on commercial whaling.
The five Japanese vessels are scheduled to enter their home-ports in southern Japan early Thursday, Japan's Fisheries Agency said.