Japanese hunters caught and killed 122 pregnant minke whales as part of an annual research in the Southern Ocean, a new report has revealed. According to a technical report sent to the International Whaling Commission, hunters caught 333 minke whales in total.
The report was prepared by representatives of the Institute of Cetacean Research, an agency linked to Japan’s fisheries ministry. The hunting team left for its Antarctic summer field survey in November 2017 and returned in March 2018.
Of the 333 minke whales that were caught during the expedition, 181 were female, while 53 were juvenile. “Apparent pregnancy rate of sampled animals was high [95.3%] and no lactating animal was observed in this survey,” the report said.
In 2014, the International Court of Justice had ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s annual programme in the Southern Ocean, after finding that the whaling was for commercial purposes and not scientific research. The country then announced a new programme in 2015 called Newrep-A, describing it as having a scientific purposes. Under this initiative, Japan is allowed to kill up to 333 Antarctic minke whales each year, CNN reported. However, critics have dismissed Japan’s new programme, calling it a cover to continue whaling for profit.
“The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan’s whale hunt,” Alexia Wellbelove of the Humane Society International said in a statement. “It is a further demonstration, if needed, of the truly gruesome and unnecessary nature of whaling operations, especially when non-lethal surveys have been shown to be sufficient for scientific needs.”