Japan to Resume Antarctic Whaling Over Concerns of Conservationists

A worker carves into a Baird's Beaked whale at Wada port in Minamiboso, southeast of Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japanese whaling boats will return to the Antarctic next year despite international opposition, a government official announced Monday.

Japanese whalers were barred from hunting in the Southern Ocean after the International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that the Japanese whaling program did not comply with the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The Court found Japan's whaling program was not for the purpose of scientific research.

Commercial whale hunting is prohibited by international agreement, but whaling for the purpose of scientific research is allowed. Japan, Iceland and Norway issue licenses for scientific whaling.

The Court decision echoed the argument of many activists and scientists that, since Japanese whalers sell the meat of the whales they kill under scientific licenses, the Japanese whaling program should be treated as a commercial operation by international authorities.

But the hunters will resume their activities next year, Joji Morishita, Japan's chief whaling negotiator, said Monday.

Whale meat is a popular dish in some parts of the island nation—though some dispute that the meat is popular throughout the country. Japanese negotiators have claimed that eating whale meat is an important part of the country's cultural heritage.

Morishita called moves to curtal Japanese whaling "environmental imperialism," according to The Japan Times.

"If you keep on like this, I worry that a country which has international political power could impose its standards and ethics on others," he said. "For example, if India becomes the world's No. 1 power and starts to say 'Don't eat beef,' what shall we do?"