Japan is cancelling its next Antarctic whaling hunt for the first time in more than 25 years, just days after the United Nation's International Court of Justice ordered an end to the practice.
On Monday, the court at The Hague ruled that Japan's killing, taking and treating of whales in the Antarctic is not for the purposes of scientific research and it must stop all whaling with immediate effect. The case was taken by Australia and supported by New Zealand.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would abide by the court ruling.
A fisheries agency official said on Wednesday that Japan has decided to cancel research whaling in the Antarctic for this fiscal year because of the ruling. However, he said it plans "to go ahead with research whaling in other areas as scheduled", including the northern Pacific, AFP reports.
Tokyo has used a legal loophole in the 1986 ban on commercial whaling that allowed it to continue slaughtering the mammals, ostensibly so it could gather scientific data. However, it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts can end on dining tables.
Public consumption of whale meat in Japan has steadily and significantly fallen in recent years and there was little support for whaling itself. But aggressive anti-whaling campaigns hardened sentiment among the Japanese public, who came to see the issue as an attack on differing cultural values.
Japan also has a coastal whaling programme that is not covered by the ban. The next Antarctic hunt would have started in late 2014. The most recent finished in March.
New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Monday's could be used as a precedent against Japanese whaling in the north Pacific.