Japan resumes commercial whaling, seen as face-saving end

TOKYO (AP) — Japan is resuming commercial whaling after 31 years, meeting a long-cherished goal seen as a largely lost cause.

Whaling boats embarked Monday on their first commercial hunts since 1988, when Japan switched to so-called research whaling, but will stay within the country's exclusive economic waters. Japan's six-month notice to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission took effect Sunday.

The Fisheries Agency said the catch quota through the end of this year is set at 227 whales, fewer than the 333 Japan used to hunt in the Antarctic.

The resumption is condemned by many conservation groups, but others see it as a face-saving way for the embattled whaling industry to come to a natural end.