*** ----> Japan’s new whaling mothership sets sail on first hunt | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Japan’s new whaling mothership sets sail on first hunt

AFP | Shimonoseki, Japan

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

The chef fires up the grill and bastes a chunky whale steak, a Japanese delicacy that could soon appear on more plates nationwide as a new whaling mothership sets sail despite criticism from conservationists.

Fatty raw pink-and-white whale meat is also on the menu at Nisshinmaru, a restaurant named after Japan’s previous huge vessel for catching the marine mammals, now retired after three decades at sea.

The last mothership was aggressively pursued in the Antarctic by activists determined to disrupt operations, but Japan has built an even bigger boat to replace it.

The brand-new, nearly 9,300-tonne lead vessel for Japan’s whaling flotilla departed Tuesday on its maiden hunt -- heralding a new era for an industry defended by the government as an integral part of Japanese culture.

Called the Kangei Maru, the ship has “an in-house processing facility where the meat is processed before being refrigerated”, explained Ryosuke Oba, the restaurant’s manager.

“This ship is like a factory. That’s its most attractive feature,” he told AFP in the city of Shimonoseki, which has a long history of whaling.

Until Japan pulled out of the International Whaling Commission in 2019, it was criticised for exploiting a loophole in the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling that allows scientific hunts.

Now the nation has resumed commercial whaling in its own waters, making it one of only three countries who do so along with Norway and Ice.