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Japan will launch Pacific whale hunt next week despite ICJ ruling, environmental activists fume

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Japan has announced it will hunt for whales in the Pacific Ocean beginning next week, a decision that defies a global ban and which has angered environmentalists.

The country's fisheries ministry says the country will also observe whales in Antarctic waters next season with plans of resuming commercial whaling.

Japan has called its whaling activities "scientific" or "research" whaling, an exception allowed to the worldwide ban against commercial whaling that is in place as the result of an international moratorium in effect since 1986.

Despite that characterization, whale meat from the hunts is sold commercially in Japan.

Japan has been moving to retool is whaling activities since the International Court of Justice ruled last month that the country's programs were commercial, rather than scientific.

Japan was conducting little true research under its claimed scientific program and had failed to justify why it took a large number of whales just for study purposes, the court said.

Although Japan had canceled this year's hunt following the ICJ verdict, it made it clear it was fully intending to resume whaling.

"We will continue our research hunts aimed at collecting scientific data and seek to resume commercial whaling," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said. "We re-examined the content of our research programs and came up with the plans that give the maximum consideration to the ruling, and we plan to fully explain that to other countries."

Japan would limit its Antarctic program in the upcoming season to observation only, but intends to resume activity in the region with new hunting plans for the 2015 to 2016 season, he said.

New programs for both its Pacific and Atlantic whaling activities would be submitted to the International Whaling Commission's scientific community at a future date, "reflecting the criteria laid out in the [ICJ] verdict," he said.

Japan has claimed its activities are meant to monitor the recovery and health of Southern Ocean whale populations, but environmentalists and conservationists have accused the country as using it as a cover for ongoing commercial whaling.

Before the ICJ ruling, Japanese research whaling killed as many as 950 humpback, minke and fin whales each year in Antarctic waters.

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