As the fleet began its long journey to the Antarctic to slaughter up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales in waters that Australia considers a sanctuary for the mammals, campaigners called on Canberra [Australia] to send a customs vessel to observe the whalers.
Japan is allowed to take 1,000 whales per year, thanks to a clause in the International Commission that allows whales to be taken for "scientific research." But the meat can still be sold at markets and restaurants. The activist group Sea Shepherd has fought against Japanese whalers, saying that the hunts are solely for food.For now, conservationists are putting pressure on Australia to keep an eye on the whaling vessels. The biggest challenge yet to Japan's whaling programme could come within weeks, when the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague is expected to rule on Australia's case against Japan. Australia hopes the verdict will come by the end of the year, possibly in time to force the fleet back to port well ahead of its scheduled return next March.