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Japan fisheries minister willing to continue whaling in Pacific


Japan's fisheries minister on Tuesday expressed willingness to continue whaling in the Pacific, despite a recent U.N. court order directing Tokyo to halt its whaling program in the Antarctic.

At the outset of a meeting with the president of a research whaling company, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he is determined to "maintain the solid policy of preserving whale-eating culture and securing supply of whale meat," emphasizing the importance of sustainable use of whale stocks.

Japan has already decided to abide by the March 31 judgment by the International Court of Justice that ruled the country's whaling in the Antarctic violated a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling there. That raised concerns among pro-whaling interests that Japan's whaling in the Pacific might also be jeopardized although then U.N. ruling applied only to the Antarctic.

Noting that the government is now discussing whether to conduct coastal whaling in the Pacific as scheduled from late this month, Hayashi said he will carefully examine the matter while "keeping that policy in mind."

However opinion is divided within Japan, with the Foreign Ministry taking a cautious view about continuing whaling in the Pacific given the gravity of the ICJ ruling.

In a related move, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research filed briefs in a U.S. court last week, stating its intent to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic as soon as fiscal 2015 under a new program, despite strong opposition from anti-whaling groups.

Other than the whaling program in the Antarctic, Japan has two other channels to conduct whaling: what Tokyo calls "research whaling" in the Northwest Pacific, as well as coastal whaling around Japan of smaller species including dolphins.