Whalers from Japan on Monday have started hunting up to 51 minke whales in waters off the country's northern island of Hokkaido, the government said despite international criticism.
From Monday to late October a fleet of four whaling ships plans to hunt in a 50-kilometre radius from Kushiro port, the eastern part of Hokkaido, the Fisheries Agency said.
The hunt will be conducted as part of what Japan calls a “scientific research whaling programme” in the north-western Pacific Ocean.
In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Japan's research whaling programme in the Antarctic contravened a 1986 moratorium on whale hunting.
The ruling prompted Tokyo to suspend whaling in the Antarctic in the 2014 season. But it resumed the operation in December 2015 and caught 333 minke whales in the Southern Ocean during a two-month trip.
Japan officially stopped commercial whaling in 1987 in response to the previous year’s moratorium. International critics however say the country has since used a loophole to keep whaling under the pretext of scientific research.