TOKYO (AP) — Japan will target fewer whales when its Pacific hunt begins next week and will observe them in the Antarctic next season with the aim of resuming full-fledged commercial whaling, the fisheries minister said Friday.
The announcement underscored that Japan hasn't abandoned its plans to continue whaling in both oceans for research purposes, an allowed exception to a global ban on commercial whaling. Last month, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to suspend its Antarctic program because it was virtually commercial, not scientific as Japan had contended.
The annual spring hunt along Japan's northern coast is to begin next week, and the distant northern Pacific expedition in May, with another coastal hunt planned in the autumn.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Pacific catch target was being slashed by nearly half — to about 210 from the current 380.
"We will continue our research hunts aimed at collecting scientific data and seek to resume commercial whaling," Hayashi told reporters in a hastily called briefing. "We re-examined the content of our research programs and came up with the plans that give the maximum consideration to the ruling, and we plan to fully explain that to other countries."
Hayashi said Japan will limit next season's Antarctic program to whale observation, but plans to return to the southern seas with hunting plans under a new program for the 2015-2016 season.
During the 2013-1014 season, Japan caught 251 minke whales in the Antarctic, or just a quarter of its quota, and 246 others in the Pacific.
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