Following intense pressure from the International Whaling Commission (iwc), Japan has dropped plans to hunt humpback whales during this year's annual whaling expedition, which is underway in the Antarctic Ocean.
In November 2007, Japan despatched its whaling fleet to the Antarctic in the first major hunt of humpback whales since the 1960s. In addition to mink and fin whales, the fleet intended to kill 50 humpbacks. The plan came under quick criticism from environmental groups, which oppose the hunts to begin with but were outraged by the inclusion of humpbacks. Classified as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union (iucn), iwc banned the commercial hunting of humpback whales in 1966.
Japan says it will not hunt humpbacks until the next annual meeting of iwc in June 2008. Environmentalists have welcomed the climb down, but say Japan still flouts the international opinion by going after mink and fin whales under the guise of scientific whaling.
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