TOKYO, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Two Japanese whaling ships set off Friday for an annual hunt in the Antarctic Ocean despite widespread international opposition, local media reported.
The ships, the 724-ton Yushin Maru and 747-ton Yushin Maru No. 2, set out from the port city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, and will join two other whaling vessels to form a fleet, with the plan to kill 333 minke whales by March, 2017.
Japan, a signatory to the commercial whaling moratorium adopted by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in the 1980s, has been hunting whales for "scientific research purposes" in north Pacific and the Antarctic.
As meat of whales hunted by Japan was sold and ended up on dinner tables, the United Nations' International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2014 that Japan shall stop its Antarctic whaling as it is not for scientific purposes.
Japan canceled its 2014-2015 season Antarctic hunt but resumed whale hunting in the following season despite the ICJ ruling and opposition from anti-whaling countries, cutting its yearly target number by two-thirds to 333.