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Japan kills 680 Antarctic whales, below target

Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3 anchored at the Shimonoseki port in Yamaguchi, western Japan, yesterday.

Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 3 anchored at the Shimonoseki port in Yamaguchi, western Japan, yesterday.

Japan's whaling catch in its latest Antarctic hunt fell far short of its target after disruptions by anti-whaling activists, according to the Fisheries Agency.

Japan, which considers whaling to be a cherished cultural tradition, killed 679 minke whales despite plans to catch around 850. It caught just one fin whale compared with a target of 50 in the hunt that began in November.

Some ships in its six-ship fleet have returned home after clashes with the hardline group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, including a collision that crushed a railing on one of the Japanese ships.

A Fisheries Agency official said ships could not carry out whaling for a total of 16 days because of bad weather and skirmishes with the activists.

Japan officially stopped commercial whaling after agreeing to a global moratorium in 1986, but began what it calls a scientific research whaling programme the following year. Whale meat can be found in some supermarkets and restaurants.

The agency has declined to comment on a recent report that Japan is considering reducing the number of whales it catches each year.

Japan has a moratorium on catching humpback whales, a favourite with whale watchers, after international criticism.

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