(dpa) - Japan's whaling fleet is finishing this season's hunt after catching a fraction of its intended quota, largely because it was hounded by protest ships, the Fisheries Agency said Monday.
The fleet killed 551 minke whales in the past five months, or 60 per cent of what was planned, but failed to kill any fin whales because few were sighted, the agency said. Fifty fin whales were sought.
An international outcry caused Japan to abandon plans to catch 50 humpback whales.
The fleet should return to Japan this week after what the agency called "sabotage" by anti-whaling activists.
Ships from Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society followed the fleet in the Antarctic, and Sea Shepherd activists were involved in a number of confrontations with it.
In January, two activists managed to board a Japanese whaling ship, which had to give up its hunt for a month. Last month, stink bombs were thrown on another whaler, causing another suspension of whaling.
Japan has come under intense international criticism for its annual hunt. After a 1986 international whaling moratorium, Japan continued to hunt whales, saying it was for scientific research. Critics said the hunt was unnecessary to study whales and argued the meat ends up in Japanese markets.