Fleet returns from Japan's last 'scientific whaling' in Antarctic sea

Japanese vessels returned Sunday from the last of their "scientific research" whaling missions in the Antarctic Ocean that have continued for around 30 years.
As the country's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission will come into effect on June 30, Japan is expected to resume commercial whaling in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone from July.
The fleet of five ships led by the 8,145-ton mothership Nisshin Maru left Japan for the Southern Hemisphere in November.
Three vessels including the Nisshin Maru returned to Shimonoseki port in Yamaguchi Prefecture and the others arrived at ports in Miyagi and Hiroshima prefectures after catching a total of 333 whales.
About 1,000 tons of whale meat were acquired, officials said. The ships did not encounter any obstructions by anti-whaling groups, according to the Fisheries Agency.
Japan will continue nonlethal scientific whale research in the Antarctic Ocean, such as counting the number of whales by visual inspection, the agency said.
Japan suspended commercial whaling in line with a moratorium adopted by the IWC in 1982, but it has been catching whales under what it calls its research whaling program since 1987, a practice often criticized as a cover for commercial whaling.
The Japanese government, which insists scientific evidence has confirmed that certain whale species are abundant, notified the IWC of its pullout in December after its proposal to resume sustainable commercial whaling and change decision-making rules at the body was rejected at its annual meeting in September.

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