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The newest addition to Japan's whaling fleet, the Kangei Maru, arrives at a port in Tokyo. REUTERS/Tom Bateman

The newest addition to Japan's whaling fleet, the Kangei Maru, arrives at a port, before setting out to hunt whales off Japan's northeastern coast, in Tokyo, Japan, May 23, 2024. REUTERS/Tom Bateman

Japan Whaler Operator Says It Has No Plan To Hunt In Antarctic

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June 2, 2024

By Kiyoshi Takenaka and Tom Bateman

TOKYO (Reuters) – The operator of Japan’s first domestically-built whaling mothership in more than seven decades said on Thursday it had no plans to send the whaler to the Antarctic Ocean, although the new vessel is capable of reaching the region.

The 7.5 billion yen ($48 million) Kangei Maru, whose construction was completed less than two months ago, has a cruising range of 7,000 nautical miles.

“This ship is designed to be able to go to the Antarctic Ocean. But we won’t be going to the Antarctic as long as we are engaged in commercial whaling,” Kyodo Senpaku President Hideki Tokoro said, citing the heavy costs for the long voyage.

Tokoro was speaking to reporters after a media tour inside the country’s only whaling mothership, which made a port call in Tokyo on Thursday on her way to the maiden hunting expedition in waters off northern Japan.

He added, however, that the company was ready to dispatch the Kangei Maru, a 112.6-metre (369-foot) ship that will soon be equipped with drones to search for whales, to the Antarctic Ocean if the government ordered it to do so.

“If Japan falls into a food crisis and the government gives us an order to secure protein no matter what, we are ready,” he said.

Japan, which says eating whale meat is part of its culture, long campaigned without success for the International Whaling Commission to allow commercial whaling.

The island nation withdrew from the international body in 2019 and resumed commercial whaling in its territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone.

The government is now planning to add large fin whales to its list of commercial whaling species, and the Kangei Maru is capable of bringing aboard such large-sized whales, weighing as much as 70 tons, alarming animal rights groups.

“There is no nutritional, scientific or moral justification for killing these magnificent ocean giants,” Humane Society International’s director of wildlife programmes Adam Peyman said in a media release. “So the launch of the Kangei Maru is a chilling sight at a time when the imperative to conserve rather than kill whales is so urgent.”

($1 = 156.6700 yen)

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Alex Richardson)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2024.

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