Japan slaughters 122 pregnant whales for ‘scientific research’

After the ruling however, Japan announced new research program, under which it would kill up to 333 Antarctic minke whales each year.

Sea Shepherd Australia is a non-profit conservation organisation whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species.

Figures from charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) show that many countries other than Japan still catch whales. However, critics believe the "research" is mainly a cover for commercial whaling.

The four-month expedition in the Antarctic ended in March after the fleet killed 333 minke whales, according to a report submitted by Japanese authorities to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) last month.

That tactic has backfired, however, with the revelation that almost two-thirds of the female whales that were harpooned were pregnant, while a further 53 of the 333 that were culled were immature specimens.

The data said, killing the whales in the way was necessary as "age information can be obtained only from internal earplugs and therefore only through lethal sampling methods". However, Japan withdrew its recognition of the court as an authority on whale disputes and resumed hunting the very next year, according to The Maritime Executive.

"The killing of 122 pregnant whales is a shocking statistic and sad indictment on the cruelty of Japan's whale hunt".

The Humane Society International (HSI) blasted the harpooning of pregnant whales as "truly gruesome and unnecessary".

Despite condemnation by the worldwide community and the global Court of Justice, the highest court on the planet, which ruled in 2014 that Japan's "JARPA II" Antarctic whaling program was illegal and must stop, Japan re-badged its whaling program and sent its whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean for its annual whale hunt in 2015.

Under Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed in 1946, countries can "kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research", and this is the rule Japan says it follows in its hunts.

Japan also allows whale flesh to be sold in markets and restaurants and ultimately plans to revive its commercial whaling industry. Tokyo also insists that hunting whales is an important part of the nation's traditions and culture.

Ms Wellbelove called on Ms Palaszczuk to use her visit to Japan to lobby its government to stop whaling.

"The Government has made representations at the highest levels to Japan - and will continue to do so".