Japan has done nothing wrong by deploying its whaling fleet for the annual Antarctic hunt and the world must agree to disagree on the issue, its top whaling official said on Monday.

The International Court of Justice said last year that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, and an International Whaling Committee (IWC) panel said in April that Tokyo had yet to demonstrate a need for killing whales.

Tokyo had taken a one-year hiatus from Antarctic whaling.

But Japan recently announced it would resume the hunt, although it cut the number of minke whales it usually takes by two-thirds, to 333 giant sea mammals.

"We did our best to try to meet the criteria established by the International Court of Justice, and we have decided to implement our research plan, because we are confident that we completed the scientific homework," Joji Morishita, Japan's IWC commissioner, told a news conference.

Morishita said the emotive issue may be one of many irreconcilable differences that the international community just has to live with.

"The solution is that we have to agree to disagree," Morishita said. "However, this does not mean that we will take all whales - exactly because we want to have sustainable whaling, we want to have a healthy whale population."

But dozens of countries appear unwilling to let the issue go.

Australia's foreign and environmental ministers said in a statement on Monday that the country was considering legal action along with 32 other nations to oppose a Japanese whaling expedition that left last week.  

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and eating whale is part of its culture. It began what it calls "scientific whaling" in 1987 - a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

The whale meat often ends up on store shelves.

 UN court rules against Japan whaling

Source: Agencies