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The Japanese whaling fleet returned today to its home port in Shimonoseki. The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research confirmed the killing of 333 minke whales: 103 males and 230 females –  over 90% of the adult females were pregnant. 

The whaling ships had set sail for the Antarctic on December 1st, despite failing to get approval from the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and despite its whaling being condemned by the International Court of Justice.

In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan should immediately rescind its unilateral Antarctic special permit (so-called ‘’scientific”) whaling since Japan’s Antarctic whaling did not qualify as such, and therefore as a consequence, Japan was in contravention of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling.

However, in November 2015, Japan announced that it would resume Antarctic whaling under its new programme, “NEWREP-A”, despite international opposition. In December 2015, the UK and other European countries signed on to a portest (demarche), strongly condemning Japan´s plans.

 “Japan has time and time again shown that it is willing to disregard science, international law, and international cooperation when it comes to its whaling operations. But what the whales need now is more than just diplomatic protest. We are calling on the European Union and the international community to consider appropriate legal and economic sanctions against a country that is clearly exempting itself from international agreements, whenever it suits its agenda”, says Astrid Fuchs, Programme lead with WDC.

The population total for the Antarctic minke whale is officially classed as unknown. They are categorised as Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List (2008), making it difficult to know the exact impact of this hunt on the population. The IUCN assessment suggests that there has been a 60% reduction in the population between the 1978–91 period and the 1991–2004 period, but this is still being investigated. If correct the IUCN would classify the Antarctic minke whale as endangered. As the population numbers are unknown any hunting has the potential to significantly impact on the population, especially when females of breeding age and pregnant females are killed.  

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