Japanese hunters killed at least two whales in the first commercial whale hunt in more than 30 years.
Japan stopped commercial whaling in 1988 after the International Whaling Commission, or IWC, banned the killing of whales. However, last December, Japan said it would leave the IWC on June 30.
Japan has long disputed the idea that whales are endangered.
Even with the ban in place, for years Japan continued to hunt whales for what it said was scientific research. However, critics have long said Japan was not truthful about its purpose. They argued that the activity was commercial because Japan sold the meat collected from the hunts.
In the 2017-2018 whaling season, Japanese sailors killed 333 whales in Antarctic waters. More than 120 of them were pregnant females.
The whaling ships sailed Monday from the port of Kushiro, on the northern island of Hokkaido. They will hunt in Japanese waters for three sorts of whales: minke, sei and Bryde’s.
Japan's return to commercial whaling has caused international criticism.
Kitty Block is president of Humane Society International. She was angry about Japan’s decision and said it is “undermining” its international image for a product that is no longer in demand.
Whaling is a very small industry in Japan. Government data says that whale accounts for 0.1 percent of meat eaten in the country. The industry employs a few hundred people.