four whaling vessels of the Japanese Fisheries Agency will conduct whaling operations in the northwestern Pacific Ocean for research purposes, despite criticism from anti-whaling nations that Japan is misusing the International Whaling Commission's research programme for commercial gains.
A spokesperson for the us National Security Council was quoted as saying that us president Bill Clinton and British prime minister Tony Blair, in a joint letter sent to Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori, have strongly opposed the whaling programme.
Officials of the fisheries agency said that the ships will catch at least 160 whales during a two-month period. This will allow scientists to gather information on the effects of pollution on the whales habitat, the migratory routes they use and the quantity of marine creatures they eat.
Meat of the whales caught will be sold commercially to partly finance the programme, the agency officials added. Japan had halted commercial whaling in accordance with an international moratorium in 1986 but has conducted "extensive research whaling" since 1987.
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