Japanese whaling fleet back from Antarctic voyage

A Japanese whaling fleet returned Saturday to a port in western Japan from a four-month voyage to the Antarctic Sea for what Tokyo says was scientific research.

The arrival of the 8,145-ton mother vessel Nisshin Maru and two smaller ships at Shimonoseki port came after the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled Monday that Japan's whaling is not conducted for scientific purposes and ordered it to stop. Tokyo has said it will comply with the decision.

During the fleet's voyage, its activities were obstructed by the U.S.-based antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Japan, which has continued what it calls "scientific" whaling in the Antarctic Ocean since 1987, insisted that the program is consistent with the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that permits research whaling.

Australia lodged a case to end Japanese whaling in the Antarctic Ocean with the international court, regarding it as a cover for commercial whaling in violation of obligations under the convention. A moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986.