Japan's whaling fleet has slaughtered 333 minke whales near Antarctica since December, including 200 pregnant females, the nation's Fisheries Agency has boasted.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, prompting it to call off its hunt that season. Japan said at the time it intended to resume whaling again and has stayed true to that statement. .
Japan then amended its plan for the next season to reduce the number of minke whales slaughtered in previous hunts. Its fleet set out in December despite international criticism, including from important ally the United States.
The whaling ships have now returned to Japan with the 333 dead minke whales, comprised of 103 males and 230 females. 90 percent of the mature females were pregnant.
"The number of pregnant females is consistent with previous hunts, indicating that the breeding situation of minke whales in the Antarctic is healthy," says the Fisheries Agency of Japan.
Conservation activist group Sea Shepherd has slammed the figures, posting photos to its social media accounts and accusing the Australian and New Zealand governments of failing to protect them.
"Just a year and a half after the ICJ ruled Japan's whaling program to be illegal, and just months after the Australian Federal Court ordered the whalers to pay a $1 million fine for illegally slaughtering whales inside the Australian Whale Sanctuary, the Japanese government has sanctioned yet another mass slaughter of protected Minke whales in the Southern Ocean," says Captain Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd.
"This rogue act is in blatant disregard of international law and diplomacy, and sets a dangerous precedent for all nations that respect the rule of law."
Australian Sea Shepherd managing director Jeff Hansen added that "false promises" from the Australian and New Zealand governments have resulted in more whales being killed "illegally".
"The majority of Australians wanted the Australian government to send a vessel to oppose the slaughter. They did not," says Hansen.
"Sea Shepherd requested that the Australian government release the location of the whalers. They refused. Instead, the governments responsible for protecting these magnificent creatures stood by, in the complete knowledge that both federal and international crimes were taking place. This empty response from authorities in the wake of the ICJ ruling is a disgrace."
Japan intends to take nearly 4000 whales over the next 12 years as part of its 'research program', frequently admitting its ultimate goal is the resumption of commercial whaling.
The country has always insisted that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture. It began the so-called scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.
The meat of research animals often ends up on shop shelves, despite it becoming highly unpopular among the Japanese people.