Tokyo: Japan on Monday opened its "scientific whaling" season on the north coast of country, during which it expects to capture 51 minke whales.
The season will end late October in the North Pacific and the operation aims to help in the management of maritime resources based on an analysis of the contents from the stomachs of captured whales, said the Japanese Fisheries Agency.
The fleet of fishing boats set sail Monday from the town of Kushiro on the northern island of Hokkaido, and its share of catches will be similar to that of last year, according to the agency, which defends the scientific purposes of the programme, Efe news reported.
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However, the activity has been much criticised by the international community, who suspect it to be covert commercial fishery, since the meat of the whales is later sold.
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice ruled that a similar programme that Japan was carrying out in Antarctica was illegal and not in keeping with "scientific purposes" established by the International Whaling Commission.
Although the sentence has not affected its other scientific programme in the North Pacific nor the commercial catches along its coasts, Tokyo had decided to cut down the volume of the catch.
The country is also set to review its whaling programme in the North Pacific in November.