Japanese whalers returned to port Saturday after capturing 333 cetaceans in the Antarctic Ocean without facing any protest by organizations opposed to the hunt, authorities said.
A fleet of five ships began its campaign in November as part of Japan’s controversial “scientific” whaling.
Three whalers, including the main ship of the fleet, the Nisshin Maru, arrived Saturday morning at the port of Shimonoseki in western Japan, said a port official.
In total, the five whalers captured 333 Minke whales as planned without being interrupted by opponents of these campaigns, said the Fisheries Agency in a statement.
Japanese whalers have been confronted in the past with animal rights organizations, including Sea Shepherd. The NGO announced last year that it was not planning a sea protest operation this season.
Japan is a signatory to the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on hunting, but is using a loophole in the text that allows hunting cetaceans for scientific purposes. The International Court of Justice had ordered Japan in 2014 to end its regular hunting campaigns in Antarctic waters, noting that they did not meet the required scientific criteria.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated at the end of January his country’s desire to continue the so-called “scientific” whale hunt in Antarctica and eventually resume commercial fishing.
Whale consumption has a long history in Japan, where the sea animal has been hunted for centuries. The whaling industry flourished after the Second World War, bringing animal protein to the country’s inhabitants. Demand from Japanese consumers has, however, declined considerably in recent years.