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Last Updated: Tuesday November 18 2008 06:21 GMT

Whaling ships go back out to sea

Japanese whaling ship

The first ship in Japan's whaling fleet has set sail to the Antarctic.

Japan is regularly criticised for killing more than 1,000 whales every year in two organised hunts.

Officials there say the hunts are for scientific research and give them vital information on whale numbers, how they feed and where they live.

As the ship leaves it will be watched by anti-whaling protestors who say whaling is cruel and unnecessary. More ships will leave later this month.

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A humpback whale
Shigeki Tanaka from the Japanese Fisheries Agency said: "We are doing a legal survey based on International Whaling Commission rules."

However anti-hunting groups think Japan is more interested in selling the meat for food. Killing whales for meat was banned in 1986.

Mai Suzuki from Greenpeace , an organisation which wants to protect whales, said: "Whaling can be stopped, once and for all, with our activities as well as public political work in Japan."

Disruptions

Whalers and protesters regularly clash out at sea- and it seems more can be expected this time around.

As the Japanese left the port of Innoshima near Hiroshima, environmental groups said they'll do everything they can to disrupt the hunt.