Japan would continue its Pacific Ocean whaling program this year, the Japanese government said late Friday.
The decision, made after a UN court ordering Tokyo last month to halt its program in the Antarctic, draws strong criticism from anti-whaling countries and citizens.
"We have come to the conclusion (to continue whaling) after carefully examining the ruling," said Japan's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, adding the government plans to reduce the number of whales caught this fiscal year ending next March in an attempt to win support from the international community.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague on March 31 ordered Japan to stop granting permits for its Antarctic whaling program, which allows an annual catch of about 1,000 whales. The court also rejected Japan's contention that the program was scientific, not commercial.
Tokyo promised it will not conduct whaling in the Antarctic this year under the current program, abiding by the ICJ judgment. But some officials of the Agriculture Ministry revealed that the government was considering resuming its whaling in the Antarctic from next fiscal year.
The whalers are expected to leave a port in northeastern Japan on April 26 to conduct whaling in the Pacific Ocean off the Japanese coast.