Research whaling mission starts off Hokkaido

Japanese research whaling vessels have left a port in northern Japan for the final expedition before the country withdraws from the International Whaling Commission and resumes commercial whaling.

Five vessels departed from Abashiri in Hokkaido on Saturday. Crews caught the first minke whale about 20 kilometers off the coast a few hours later.

The mammal was female, about 6.7 meters in length and weighed some three tons. Landing of the whale was shown to media, before it was transported to a facility in the city for dismemberment.

Research whaling off the coast of Abashiri, which seeks to catch 47 minke whales each year, has been conducted since 2017.

The vessels will engage in research whaling until the end of June, and start commercial whaling on July 1.

A senior member of a regional whaling promotion association, Yoshifumi Kai, said he hopes the expedition will collect data useful for commercial whaling.