Japan will try again with 'scientific' whaling programme

File: AP
File: AP

Tokyo - Japan's top whaling negotiator said on Tuesday Tokyo would try again to justify its "scientific" Antarctic Ocean hunt after a panel of experts said the government had not proved why it needed to kill the mammals.

Joji Morishita, Japan's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), said he and his fellow officials would do their best to meet demands for evidence their hunt is scientific, with the Japanese government determined to restart what it claims is research.

"We respect their recommendations and we will make the best effort to respond to their recommendations, in good faith and in a sincere manner," Morishita told journalists in Tokyo.

"Our draft research plan is a draft from page one to the end, so all parts of the research plan can be improved, amended or changed in the course of the discussion."

New plan

Despite international disapproval, Japan has hunted whales in the Southern Ocean under an exemption in the global moratorium on whaling that allows for lethal research.

It makes no secret of the fact that meat from the animals - killed ostensibly for research - is processed into food.

The International Court of Justice - the highest court of the United Nations - ruled in March last year that the research was a veneer for a commercial hunt and ordered that it end.

After that ruling, Japan said it would not hunt during this winter's Antarctic season but has since expressed its intention to resume "research whaling" in 2015-16.

Japan then tinkered with its programme and submitted a new plan to a panel of experts from the IWC. Amongst other things, the plan reduced the annual catch target to 333 from 900, and put a 12-year limit on the research.

Enough evidence

But that panel on Monday said there was not enough evidence of the need for whales to be killed if Japan really wants to find out what they eat and how old they are.

Morishita said Japan would fine tune the plan before a meeting of the IWC's science committee in San Diego in May.

Japan has said it believes the world's whale population, especially the stock of minke whales, is sizeable enough to accommodate a return to sustainable whaling.

It argued in its proposal to the IWC that knowledge gained by the research killing would help the IWC calculate sustainable levels for hunting.

Lethal research should also lead to a better understanding of the Antarctic marine ecosystem, Japan maintains.

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