Two whaling ships and a surveillance vessel have left for the annual hunt in the Antarctic Sea, according to Japanese media.
Kyodo News says the three ships departed from the western port of Shimonoseki to join other ships to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales between now and March 2013.
The Fisheries Agency had kept the departure date of the whaling fleet secret as a precaution against obstruction by militant anti-whaling groups.
Earlier this year New Zealand officials visited The Hague to support Australia’s action against Japan’s whaling programme.
The Australian Government wants the 16-judge panel to ban Tokyo’s annual hunt on the basis it is not “for purposes of scientific research” as allowed under Article Eight of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson said New Zealand wanted the court to provide guidance for all the parties on the direct approach to article eight.
Japan has killed more than 14,000 whales in the name of science since 1986, most in the Southern Ocean.
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has been down to the Antarctic for nine seasons trying to stop what they describe as commercial killing.
Source | tvnz.co.nz