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Japanese Fleet Embarks on Hunt for Endangered Whales

June 30, 2002|Associated Press

TOKYO — A fleet of Japanese whalers set out Saturday for a three-month hunt in the northwest Pacific where they will kill endangered sei whales for the first time in more than 25 years.

The five vessels plan to catch 260 whales--150 minke, 50 Bryde's, 50 sei and 10 sperm whales, the Fisheries Agency said.

Sei whales have not been taken since their near-extinction led nations to halt commercial hunts of the species 26 years ago.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, but it allows Japan a limited catch under a scientific research program. Japan said it added the sei whale to this year's hunt after data showed the population had risen to 28,000.

Japan says its research program, begun in 1987, is necessary to chart whales' migration patterns, population trends and diet. Opponents say Japan's research is commercial whaling in disguise because the meat is sold to wholesalers.

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