Japan 220 whales short of kill target

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JAPAN’S whaling catch in its latest Antarctic hunt fell far short of its target after disruptions by anti-whaling activists, its Fisheries Agency said today.

Japan, which considers whaling to be a cherished cultural tradition, killed 679 minke whales despite plans to catch around 850.

It caught just one fin whale compared with a target of 50 in the hunt that began in November.

Some ships in its six-ship fleet have returned home after clashes with the hardline group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, including a collision that crushed a railing on one of the Japanese ships.

Kazuo Yamamura, president of wahling fleet operators Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, told the Associated Press he was angry about the damage caused to the ships.

“I’m enraged, and my blood is boiling with anger,” he said.

A Fisheries Agency official said ships could not carry out whaling for a total of 16 days because of bad weather and skirmishes with the activists.

Japan officially stopped commercial whaling after agreeing to a global moratorium in 1986, but began what it calls a scientific research whaling programme the following year. Whale meat can be found in some supermarkets and restaurants.

The agency has declined to comment on a recent report that Japan is considering reducing the number of whales it catches each year.

Japan has a moratorium on catching humpback whales, a favourite with whale watchers, after international criticism.

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