SAINT HELIER, Jersey — Japan said Wednesday it would to go ahead with its annual whale hunt around Antarctica despite vows by militant environmental group Sea Shepherd to again harass the Japanese fleet.
"The basic position is to go back to the Southern Ocean, and we are currently considering how to do this because we don't want to repeat the same situation" as earlier this year, Joji Morishita, deputy head of Japan's delegation to the International Whaling Commission, told AFP.
In February, Japan recalled its Antarctic fleet a month ahead of schedule with only one fifth of its planned catch, citing interference from Sea Shepherd's vessels.
The 89-nation IWC, roughly evenly split between pro- and anti-whaling nations, is meeting until Thursday.
Japan is one of a handful of nations that hunt the giant sea mammals despite a 1986 moratorium on killing whales.
"This year the attack was so extreme and violent we had no choice but to bring back our research vessels in order to avoid to a life-threatening situation for the crews," Morishita said.
"However, that does not mean that we have changed the policy about this research activity," he said.
Japan conducts whale hunting in the southern hemisphere for what it describes as "scientific research", setting self-determined quotas averaging about 1,000 whales each year over the last five years.
The killing is permissible under the IWC rules, but other nations and environmental groups condemn it as disguised commercial whaling.
Founder and head of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Paul Watson, told AFP on Tuesday that he would continue harassing Japanese whalers if they returned to the Antarctic sanctuary.
"If they go back to the Southern Ocean, then we go back the the Southern Ocean," he said.