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Last Updated: Friday December 21 2007 08:59 GMT

Japan stops humpback whale hunt

A humpback whale

Japan has abandoned controversial plans to kill humpback whales during its annual whale hunt in Antarctica.

The decision comes after pressure from the International Whaling Commission and widespread criticism of the hunt, particularly from Australia.

A worldwide ban on hunting humpbacks began in the 1960s, but Japan wanted to kill the animals again, for the first time in 40 years, for scientific study.

Its whaling fleet will still be killing about 1,000 other smaller whales.

Japan is regularly criticised for its annual whaling expeditions.

Whale quiz
A humpback whale
This year's hunt hit the headlines more than usual because of its plans to target humpback whales as well as other species.

In the 1960s, a ban on hunting humpbacks was introduced because the creatures were in danger of dying out.

Research

Japanese officials had argued that humpback numbers were big enough to let the hunting start again, but now its said it's decided "not to catch humpback whales for one year or two".

It says whaling is necessary for scientific research, but other countries say scientists could learn just as much about the creatures without killing them.



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