Japan plans to restart its seasonal hunting of minke whales in the Antarctic Ocean next year. For this, the Asian nation is willing to bypass a ban imposed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March this year. Tokyo was forced to abandon its annual expedition after the ICJ ruled that Japan’s whaling was a commercial activity masquerading as “research.”

Minke Whales Japan

Japan sends four vessels to kill 51 minke whales

Japan has already launched its Pacific minke whale hunt. Notably, the ICJ hadn’t specifically mentioned the Pacific program in its ruling.On Sunday, four Japanese ships set sail off the port of Kushiro for the “research-based” whale hunting. The Japan Fisheries Agency told AFP that they have planned to kill 51 minke whales during the trip.

For decades, Japan exploited a loophole in international policies to keep hunting minke whales. Killing whales for research purposes is exempt from the 1986 International Prohibition on Commercial Whaling. So, Japan kept killing whales in the name of “research.” However, the country has never made a secret of the fact that the meat of killed whales ends up in fish markets and restaurants. So, the ICJ banned whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan to submit its revised proposal before IWC next week

Last week, Japan’s pro-whaling government proposed a revised program with a bit more scientific angle. Japanese government hopes it can bypass the ban by giving its whaling program a more scientific focus. The new proposal says hunting vessels will “construct a model of the Antarctic ecosystem” once the whaling resumes.

The new proposal will be submitted to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on September 15 in Slovenia. Japan has sought international support for its revised program. However, Japan is likely to face the ire of Australia and New Zealand, who have voiced the need to protect the endangered species. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe triggered fury in non-whaling countries in June by saying that he would increase efforts to restart commercial whaling. Abe had also reiterated the importance of whaling in Japanese culture.