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Japanese vessel caught with dead whale onboard; accused of whale hunting

WATCH: Anti-whaling activists published images of a dead whale onboard a Japanese vessel in the Southern Ocean.

Australia said on Monday it was “deeply disappointed” Japan had continued whaling in the Southern Ocean after anti-whaling activists published images of a dead whale, two days after Australian and Japanese leaders discussed the issue.

Australia has long opposed Japanese whaling and the contentious issue was raised in talks between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sydney on Saturday, said sources familiar with the talks.

“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said on Monday in a written statement.

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“It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them,” Frydenberg added, without confirming the exact location of the current hunt. Frydenberg said Australia will continue to press its strong opposition to whaling at the International Whaling Commission.

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The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014, in a case brought by Australia, that Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, prompting Japan to suspend its hunt for one season, though it resumed in 2015.

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd published images on Sunday (January 15) of a dead minkewhale, which appeared to have been punctured by a harpoon, on the deck of the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru.

Sea Shepherd said the ship was hunting in an Australian sanctuary off the Antarctic coast.

The images are the first of the Japanese whaling fleet hunting in the Southern Ocean since the 2014 court ruling, Sea Shepherd said in a statement. Footage shows the dead whale was later covered by a blue tarpaulin.

Australian Greens Senator for Tasmania Nick McKim said that “Japan should not be let off the hook” and the international community need to enforce the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

“They’re playing a bureaucratic and administrative game, they’ve been playing it for decades, they’ve been lying to the world about the reasons for their companies’ whaling expeditions into the Southern Ocean and Australia simply needs to muscle up and start defending its territorial waters here,” McKim said.

Japan maintains that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture.

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Japan started what it calls “scientific whaling” in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

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