Tokyo, Nov 30, 2015 (AFP) - Japan will dispatch a "research" whaling mission to the Antarctic Ocean on Tuesday, the government said, defying international criticism and despite a UN legal decision that such activity disguises commercial hunts.
"The research ships will depart for new whale research in the Antarctic on December 1, 2015," the Fisheries Agency said Monday in a statement on its website.
Tokyo has for years come under intense global pressure to stop hunts that opponents decry as inhumane but that Japan says are an inherent part of its traditional culture.
The United Nations' top legal body judged last year that Japan's so-called scientific whaling activity in the Southern Ocean was a front for commercial hunts.
The agency's statement said the "research period" for the mission would be from late December to early March.
It will include a "mother ship" as well as three other vessels. A total of 160 crew members will participate, the statement added.