From: Associated Press
Published November 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Japan Catches 35 Whales off Northern Island of Hokkaido

TOKYO — Japan has caught 35 whales off the coast of northern island of Hokkaido, officials said Thursday, under a research program that critics say is disguised commercial whaling.

The 42-day expedition off the coast of Kushiro city on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island, returned Tuesday after catching 35 minke whales, the fisheries agency said in a statement released Thursday.

The catch was fewer than 60, the maximum number allowed under the research program authorized by the International Whaling Commission, due to bad weather in late September, it said.

There were not many minke whales because of few stocks of saury and anchovy which minkes feed on in the research area, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Kushiro in the Pacific Ocean, according to the agency.

The agency says that the hunt is aimed at studying the whales' feeding patterns and their effect on fish stocks.

Findings will be presented at next year's meeting of the IWC.

Japan and other pro-whaling nations have been pushing for the IWC to revoke the 1986 ban on commercial hunts amid controversy over exactly how many whales are left in the world's oceans.

At an IWC meeting in June, those nations passed a symbolic resolution to support ending the moratorium -- but officially ending the ban would require a 75 percent majority among commission members.

The Japanese government plans to catch 1,070 minke whales in 2006, as well as a total of 170 Bryde's, sei, sperm and fin whales.

Kushiro is 890 kilometers (556 miles) northwest of Tokyo.

Source: Associated Press

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