As the first Japanese whaling boats set sail to the Antarctic, Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon expressed the UK's continued opposition over Japan's plans to kill endangered whales.
Japan is legally bound by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, but carries out large-scale whaling by exploiting a loophole which permits "scientific whaling" under the guise of research.
Making clear the UK's opposition, Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said:
"Japan's slaughter of whales, supposedly in the name of science is cruel and scientifically unnecessary. We urge Japan to stop this needless killing.
"It undermines international efforts to conserve and protect whales and goes against the spirit of the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling.
"There is absolutely no justification for continued whaling and we will continue to oppose whaling at every possible opportunity."
In 1982 the IWC took the decision, which came into force in 1986, that catch limits for all commercial whaling would be set to zero. However, Japan self awards its own whaling quota, and this year has allocated itself up to 935 Minke Whales and 50 Fin Whales to be caught and killed in the Antarctic.
Last year the Japanese whaling fleet needlessly killed 266 Minke whales, and a single Fin whale. Around 75% of the 1,200 tons of meat from the controversial hunt was not sold, despite repeated attempts to auction it.
The UK has continuously expressed its concern over Japan's commercial whaling, and is against all forms of whaling except very limited subsistence whaling by indigenous people.
Many whale populations have not recovered from overexploitation in past centuries. he Japanese fleet has killed over 20,000 whales since the worldwide ban came into force in 1986. By contrast just 840 whales were killed in the name of scientific research between 1954 and 1986.