A Japanese four-ship whaling fleet returned from the Antarctic sea on Thursday with 333 dead minke whales, most of which were pregnant. The hunt is part of a controversial tradition that was suspended for over a year but held once again.

The country justifies the deaths behind research motivations. Representatives from Japan Whaling Association said that a large range of information such as population, age structure, growth rates, among others, is needed for the management and conservation of whales.

Even though nonlethal research methods have been proven efficient among whales, Japanese representatives added that the information they look for cannot be found through small DNA samples and that the whales have to be killed.

Japan’s whaling fleet has returned with more than 300 whales harvested from Antarctic waters, according to the country’s Fisheries Agency. Credits: CNN

“The number of pregnant females is consistent with previous hunts, indicating that the breeding situation of minke whales in the Antarctic is healthy,” concluded the Japanese Fisheries Agency after the team’s arrival.

The 333 quote is a third of what Japan used to haul on average every year, but now it is actually the maximum number of kills allowed to the Asian nation by International Whaling Commission (IWC) for research purposes, as reported by the Washington Post.

As a controversial point of view for most of the nations, the United Nations Court of Justice in 2014 ordered Japan to halt the program after concluding that research claims could not justify the extensive numbers of kills.

The hunts were temporarily stopped and instead of leaving them at all, Japan proposed a new plan which included 4,000 whales killed over 12 years. The IWC asked the country to revise the plan again but they just went ahead and started whaling once again in December last year.

Where do the whales go?

Most of the whales hunted do not end up in laboratories, they actually just end up on dinner plates. Some activists have argued that these research vessels have never been anything but a way around commercial whaling bans imposed in 1886.

Japanese officials do not hide that fact, and instead, they argue that minke whale is abundant enough to be hunted sustainably. But, even though they are not endangered, conservationists pointed out that there is a steady decline in the animal’s numbers over the course of the past few decades.

Source: The Washington Post