TOKYO, March 25 (UPI) -- A Japanese whaling fleet has killed 333 minke whales as part of the Japanese government's controversial research program.
The hunt was part of a study to understand the best ways to manage minke whale populations in the Arctic Ocean, the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries said in a statement on its website. But it was also in defiance of a United Nations International Court of Justice order to halt its whaling.
Japan's Fishery Agency issued a report noting 230 of the whales killed in the hunt were female, and about 90 percent of them were pregnant.
Greenpeace was quick to respond to the report with the tweet: "The Japanese whaling fleet defies the UN and kills 333 whales, including 200 pregnant mothers."
The 333 is a third of what Japan's yearly totals used to be. Japan briefly stopped whaling after the U.N. order, then made a new proposal of 4,000 whales killed over 12 years and over the objections of the environmental activists and the international community they resumed hunting in 2015.
Conservationists contend hunting in the name of research is only to subvert international law, because the International Whaling Commission allows scientific exemptions in its 1986 commercial whaling ban.
Australia has been a particularly outspoken critic of Japan's whaling practices.
"We do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called 'scientific research'," Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said in a statement last year.
"There is no need to kill whales in the name of research," he said. "Nonlethal research techniques are the most effective and efficient method of studying all cetaceans."