Japan to launch reduced Pacific whale hunt next week

Minke whale caught by Japanese vessel - file pic Japan can still catch whales in the Pacific despite a ban on its whaling in the Southern Ocean

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Japan says it will begin hunting whales in the Pacific Ocean next week, after cancelling whaling off Antarctica in line with an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling.

Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the target would be 210 Pacific whales - about half the current catch.

Japan's defiance of a worldwide ban on whaling has angered environmentalists.

Last month the ICJ ruled that Japan's Antarctic whaling was commercial, not scientific as Tokyo had argued.

"Our basic policy lies with (continuing) research whaling. Research whaling is a means to seek a way out of the current situation of moratorium by collecting scientific data. So, we aim to resume commercial whaling at the earliest possible date, by conducting research whaling," Mr Hayashi said.

In its March ruling the ICJ - a UN body - agreed with Australia, which brought the case against Japan in May 2010. It called on Japan to re-examine its overall whaling policy.

The ICJ said Japan had failed to explain why it needed to kill so many whales simply for research purposes.

The international moratorium on whaling has been in place since 1986. A year later, Japan began what it called scientific whaling.

The meat from the slaughtered whales is sold commercially in Japan.

Mr Hayashi said Japan plans to "submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the [ICJ] verdict".

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