Two Japanese ships used for hunting whales departed on Friday, heading towards the northwestern Pacific Ocean. An official from the fisheries ministry said they have a goal of catching (and killing) around 260 whales under the label of “scientific research.” Out of the types of whales they will be hunting, they hope to catch around 100 minke whales and 10 sperm whales.
The two departing ships are known as the Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru 2, and are on their way to meet the leading fleet vessel, the Nisshin Maru, which set sail earlier. The feet hope to conclude their “research” by the end of August, and then they will return to their home port of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi prefecture, in western Japan. Under international treaties, commercial whale hunting is outlawed, however Japan has disregarded those laws and used a loophole to conduct “lethal research” under the cover of science since 1987.
In the past, Japanese whalers have had to deal with a number of confrontations at sea with anti-whaling activists. One of the more renown is a group by the name of Sea Shepherd, led by Paul Watson, who have gone to such extremes as ramming their boat into whaling vessels in attempts to sink them. Watson was actually arrested in Germany this week; Japan has had an international warrant out for his arrest since 2010, but he is currently being detained on other charges. In addition to Japan’s controversial whaling, they have also been put in the spotlight of international criticism over a small northern town’s tradition of an annual slaughter of dolphins.