TOKYO | Tue Oct 4, 2011 7:38am EDT
TOKYO Oct 4 (Reuters) - Japan will toughen security around its whaling fleet in the Antarctic Ocean this winter, Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano said on Tuesday, in response to anti-whaling protests at sea.
Last season, Japan cut short its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic after it was obstructed on the water by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
This year, Japan plans to send the Fisheries Agency's patrol ship to protect whaling crews, and other measures are also being considered, Kano told reporters. Whaling ships normally set sail from Japan around November and December.
"There is a premise that Japan aims to restart commercial whaling in the future and the nation needs to continue research whaling to achieve that," Kano said.
Australia immediately condemned Japan's decision to continue whaling, especially as the hunt will take place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement.
Japan -- which along with Iceland and Norway is one of one three countries that hunt whales -- introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium. It argues it has a right to monitor the whales' impact on its fishing industry.
Last year, Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in the Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling. The decision is expected to come in 2013 or later. (Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)