Despite falling demand for whale meat, Japan is going ahead with a whaling expedition that started yesterday. Harpoon ships from Japan's whaling fleet have left their home port and are heading towards the Antarctic for this year's hunt.
The Japanese government has vowed to send a patrol ship with the whaling fleet to monitor possible confrontations with activists from the Sea Shepherd conservation group.
Also dispatched with the fleet will be more Japanese coastguard officers, who will have the power to arrest anyone who trespasses on a whaling ship.
Three whaling ships, including harpoon vessels Yushin Maru and Yushin Maru, left their home port of Shimonoseki in western Japan this morning without the usual ceremony or send-offs.
It is believed the ships will link up with the fleet's factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and head towards the Antarctic.
Also preparing to weigh anchor is Sea Shepherd, which is again planning to harass the whaling fleet with its own flotilla of ships.
Last year, after repeated clashes, Japan called off the hunt after catching only a fifth of its quota.
Source: ABC News
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