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Japan Says It Will Temporarily Scale Back Whale Hunt

Japan says it will kill fewer whales when its seasonal Pacific hunt begins next week and will only observe whales in the Antarctic, after a U.N. court ordered it to stop taking the marine mammals from the Southern Ocean.

Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the Pacific catch target would be lowered to about 210 from the current 380. Hayashi said that while the Southern Ocean hunt is suspended this year, Japan would invite "famous scientists from home and abroad" to help devise a new research program that would satisfy the court's demands," according to The New York Times.

Japan, one of only a few countries that continue whaling, has exploited a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's moratorium that allows a limited number of animals to be taken for scientific research. Tokyo, however, has acknowledged that the slaughtered whales – which are caught under the aegis of its Institute of Cetacean Research, in fact end up on Japanese dinner tables.

The Times says last month's ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague questioned whether Japan's program was "really for research, pointing out that it had yielded few scientific results. Japan says its 26-year-old research program is needed to monitor recovering whale populations in the Southern Ocean."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.