Japan's top whaling official has said that Tokyo did its best to meet criteria established by the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) on whaling. The statement comes as 33 countries urged Japan to stop the practice.
Joji Morishita, Japan's International Whaling Committee (IWC) commissioner, said in a statement on Monday that the island-nation has done nothing wrong by continuing to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.
"We did our best to try to meet the criteria established by the International Court of Justice, and we have decided to implement our research plan, because we are confident that we completed the scientific homework as well as…meeting the ICJ judgement requirement," Morishita said during a press briefing.
The ICW officially implemented a worldwide moratorium on the practice in 1986, although Japan says it hunts the marine mammals for scientific research.
In 2014, the ICJ ruled that Japan's annual whale hunt was part of a commercial venture, and not intended for research. Japan consequently stopped its whaling activities for a year.
However, a Japanese whaling fleet left for Antarctica earlier this month, effectively ending the country's self-imposed suspension.
"The solution is that we have to agree to disagree," Morishita said, adding that the subject may be one of several that the international community must come to grips with.
"However, this does not mean that we will take all whales - exactly because we'd like to have sustainable whaling, we'd like to have a healthy whale population."
'No scientific basis'
Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key said that the country's ambassador to Japan delivered a formal message from 33 countries condemning Japan's actions.
"We consider that there is no scientific basis for the slaughter of whales and strongly urge the government of Japan not to allow it to go ahead," Key said in a statement.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also condemned the hunt, saying Canberra was considering legal action against Japan.
"We are working with other like-minded nations to build international consensus against Japanese whaling," the foreign minister said in a statement. "We are also exploring options for further legal action."
ls/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)