Minke whales off the coast of Japan are swimming for their lives.
A fleet of four whaling ships launched from a northeastern Japanese port on Friday, seeking some 51 minke whales who live in coastal waters, according to The Japan Times. The hunt is part of the country's whaling program for the purpose of "scientific research," which allows hunters to kill whales within 50 miles of the port of Ayukawa in Miyagi Prefecture.
The so-called "research" is actually a thinly veiled attempt to pave the way for future whaling expeditions. By examining the stomach contents of the whales they capture, the Association for Community-Based Whaling, the organization conducting the hunt, says they will study the minke whales' impact on the ecosystem and on other species - though much of the meat ends up in the commercial market.