Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ran his campaign partially on the promise to fight the waste of taxpayer money. Yet, a fleet of highly controversial, taxpayer-funded whaling ships has left port, headed toward Antarctica to initiate this year’s hunt – and Greenpeace is determined to remind Hatoyama of his oath.

Unfurling a large banner reading “Yes We Can” left over from U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign on their own anti-whaling ship, Greenpeace activists hope to remind the Japanese government that whaling is a taxpayer-subsidized activity.

But Japan calls the whale hunting expedition scientific research, citing an exception in the 1986 international moratorium that allows whaling for scientific purposes.

"Japan's so-called scientific whaling is nothing less than commercial whaling in disguise. You don't need to kill whales to study them," said Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).

Many activists had hoped that Hatoyama’s election, and plans to review Japan’s government spending, would slow down whale hunting.

But as the fifth season of the country’s scientific whaling program known as 'JARPA II' begins, anti-whaling campaigners fear that more whales than ever will die.

The Japanese whalers plan to kill 50 humpback whales, breaking a four-decade ban on hunting humpbacks, in addition to the 1,000 minke whales and fin whales they have in their sights.

"The whalers have our beloved humpbacks in their sights — the same whales that migrate to Australia during winter, the same whales that support our multimillion dollar whale-watching industries on our East and West coasts,” laments Kindleysides.