TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has done nothing wrong by sending its whaling fleet out on its annual Antarctic hunt and the world must agree to disagree on the issue, the country's top whaling official said on Monday.
The International Court of Justice said last year that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop and an International Whaling Committee panel said in April that Tokyo had yet to demonstrate a need for killing whales. Tokyo took a one-year hiatus from Antarctic whaling.
But Tokyo's retooling of its hunt plan for the 2015/16 season, which cut the number of minke whales it takes by two-thirds to 333, made every effort to meet the objections of both the court and the IWC committee, said Joji Morishita, Japan's IWC Commissioner.
Japan, which has long maintained most whale species are not endangered and eating whale is part of its culture, began what it calls scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect. The meat ends up on store shelves.
"We did our best to try to meet the criteria established by the International Court of Justice and we have decided to implement our research plan, because we are confident that we completed the scientific homework as well as ... meeting the ICJ judgment requirement," Morishita told a news conference.
Morishita added that the emotive issue may just be another one of many irreconcilable differences international society has to live with.
"The solution is that we have to agree to disagree," he said.
"However, this does not mean that we will take all whales - exactly because we'd like to have sustainable whaling, we'd like to have a healthy whale population."
(The story is refiled to tweak quotes in paragraphs 5, 8)
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)