Japanese ships set out on first commercial whale hunt in 30 years
Commercial whaling has recommenced in Japan after a 31-year hiatus.
Whaling boats embarked on their first commercial hunts since 1988 on Monday, more than three decades after Japan switched to so-called research whaling.
The country's Fisheries Agency said the catch quota through the end of this year is set at 227 whales, fewer than the 333 Japan hunted in the Antarctic in recent years.
The quota for this season's catch, planned for release in late June, was withheld until Monday apparently to avoid criticism during the Group of 20 summit that concluded over the weekend in Osaka.
As the boats left port, whalers, their families and local officials in two major whaling towns, Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan, which is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's electoral constituency, and Kushiro in the north, celebrated the fresh start, hoping for a safe return and a good harvest.
"We hope commercial whaling will be on track as soon as possible, contribute to local prosperity and carry on Japan's rich whale culture to the next generation," Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters in Tokyo.
While the resumption of commercial whaling is condemned by many conservation groups, others see it as a face-saving way to let the government's embattled and expensive whaling program gradually succumb to changing times and tastes.