Whalers are striking out in search of the ocean's giants this week, but Antarctic whales are safe - for now.
The Japanese Fisheries Agency announced late Tuesday that the country's Institute of Cetacean Research plans to conduct non-lethal research by taking skin samples from Antarctic whales until March 28. But the three vessels will leave their harpoons at home, AFP reports.
The expedition this Thursday comes after a major ruling against Japan's commercial whaling program. Last March, the highest court of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ruled that Japan's Antarctic whale hunts were "unscientific," and ordered them to stop hunting. The court said that the commercial hunts did not fall under an exemption in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission.
Despite the absence of harpoons on the ships this time around, Japan has already made it clear that it will resume lethal "research whaling" in the middle of 2015, despite the ICJ ruling. The campaign, dubbed the New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A), states Japan's intentions to continue whaling: