TOKYO, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Japan's Fisheries Agency plans to sell whale meat directly to the public to raise money for its deficit-ridden research whaling program, officials say.
The controversial whale catch, supposedly aimed at monitoring the Antarctic population, costs about $60 million (4.5 billion to 5 billion yen) a year, The Mainichi Shimbun reported.
The agency announced Tuesday starting next year, individuals can purchase meat by mail order and it will also be sold directly to restaurants. Previously, sales were made only to wholesale distributors.
School lunch programs will also receive more whale meat.
Japan banned commercial whaling in 1987 when an international moratorium took effect. But the country has continued a research program that critics say is mainly aimed at killing whales for human consumption.
Confrontations between Japanese whaling vessels and those operated by environmental groups like Sea Shepherd have become almost routine in Antarctic waters.
Whale meat is expensive, selling for $3.75 to $6.25 for less than 4 ounces. Consumption has been dropping although some restaurants offer whale as a luxury item.