TOKYO (AP) — Japan has bought whale meat from Iceland, the first time in 17 years it has imported the meat, a news agency reported Saturday, Nov. 29.
The shipment passed through Japanese customs and was already on the market, Kyodo News agency said, quoting unidentified trade ministry officials. Officials refused to give further details, including how much and what kind of whale meat was involved, Kyodo said.
Japanese fisheries and trade officials were not available for comment on Saturday.
Japan last imported whale meat in 1991. Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 under the International Whaling Commission.
Pro-whaling countries, including Japan, Iceland and Norway, say the commercial hunt should be allowed to resume for non-endangered species such as minke whales.
Japan claims the import of the meat does not violate international trade laws.
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, ending a 20-year hiatus after withdrawing from the IWC. This year, Iceland allowed the country’s whalers to catch up to 40 minkes.
Japan, which conducts research hunts under the IWC, sent a whaling fleet earlier this month to the Antarctic for an annual hunt. Japan kills about 1,200 whales a year in two expeditions.
In recent years, Japanese whalers have faced violent protests from the environmental group Sea Shepherd in the Antarctic waters.
The Japanese have hunted whales for centuries and the meat was once widely popular. Today, however, its consumption is largely limited to small coastal communities. ♦