Japan had been using the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which allows the killing of whales for scientific research, to validate its culling of the marine giants in the Antarctic.
In March earlier this year, however, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled out that the country's whaling program is not intended for scientific purpose. The United Nations court has called the program a commercial hunt that masquerades as a scientific research and said that Japan's whale hunt should stop.
In response to the ICJ ruling, the Asian country cancelled its Antarctic hunt this year and carried out a scaled down version of the Northern Pacific hunt in the summer. However, on Tuesday, Nov. 18, Japan revealed its plan to resume what it claims to be its whale research program in the Southern Ocean for the 2015-2016 season.
Japan said that it is reducing the Antarctic whale hunt quota in a bid to prove that it is conducting genuine scientific research.
"We hope to earnestly explain this new plan in order to win understanding from other nations in the world," said fisheries minister Koya Nishikawa.
Under the new plan, which was submitted to the International Whaling Commission, or IWC, the intergovernmental body that oversees the management of whaling and the conservation of whales, and its scientific community, Japan is reducing its annual target of minke whales from 900 in its previous whaling program to 333. Last year, it aimed for 855 minke whales, 10 fin whales, and 50 humpback whales.
Despite what appears to be a drastic cut in the whaling quota and Japan's claim that the level of catch it has set is needed to get information on the age of the marine animal's population, which Japan said is necessary for it to determine the "safe levels of catch limits" and warrant sustainability, conservation groups are not satisfied.
"We can collect all the information we need from whales using non-lethal means and the ICJ said Japan needs to look at those non-lethal means," said Australian Marine Conservation Society director Darren Kindleysides. "And yet the bottom line is that Japan wants to kill more than 300 minke whales."
Japan has long contended that most species of whales are not endangered and that eating the meat of this marine animal is part of its food culture. The country's tradition of whale hunting has spanned for 2,000 years.