Japan’s whaling ships kill hundreds of whales almost every year. This year too, Japan has returned with a harvest of 333 Antarctic Minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), including 200 pregnant females.

This latest hunt seems to be in apparent violation of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) 2014 ruling ordering Japan to halt all whaling.

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling. But it allowed killing whales for research purposes. Japan has since then been accused of using this loophole to continue with its whaling program for “scientific research”.

Not convinced by the justification of their whaling program, the ICJ ordered Japan to stop all whaling in 2014.

“In light of the fact that JARPA II [Japan’s whaling program] has been going on since 2005 and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” the court wrote in its judgment.

Following the order, Japan did temporarily halt its whaling program. But it revised its program and resolved to resume whaling in 2015-16. Japan maintains that the killing of whales, including juveniles and pregnant females, is necessary to determine whether the Antarctic whale population is healthy for future commercial whaling. The country plans to kill about 4,000 whales over the next 12 years.

Conservationists are outraged. In a letter to Nature in January this year, some scientists wrote that “the science behind Japan’s whaling activity has not passed a reasonable standard of peer review.” In fact, it is believed that Japan is actually hunting whales for meat in the guise of research.

Australia, too, has strongly opposed Japan’s whaling program.

“The Australian government opposes so-called ‘scientific’ whaling clearly, absolutely and categorically,” Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt told AFP. “It is in my view abhorrent and a throwback to an earlier age… There is no scientific justification for lethal research.”

However, some conservation groups say that the Australian government has done very little to prevent the whaling.

The conservation status of the Antarctic Minke whale is currently unknown. The whale species is classified as Data Deficient under the IUCN Red List criteria.

Article published by Shreya Dasgupta, source: Mongabay