That sparked condemnation on Thursday from Chris Carter, New Zealand's conservation minister, who described humpbacks as "one of the most iconic whale species".
Humpbacks, with their distinctive tails and spectacular displays jumping clear of the water - known as breaching - have become a widely recognised emblem for whale conservation groups.
Carter said plans to hunt the whales would "generate enormous hostility from round the world".
|Humpback whales have become an |
icon of global conservation [EPA]
He said New Zealand would voice its opposition to the plans at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission due in Alaska in May.
Australia, meanwhile, welcomed the news that the current hunt was ending early, with the departure of the Nisshin Maru, the ship hit by the fire, and the other vessels in the Japanese fleet.
Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian environment minister, said it meant a large number of minke whales the Japanese were expected to kill had been saved.
He said he would continue efforts to stop Japan killing whales in the name of scientific research.
Killing whales was unnecessary for the management of the mammals in the Southern ocean, Turnbull said, adding that "management information can be collected using non-lethal research techniques".
Although commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, Japan is allowed to hunt a certain number of whales each year for what it says are scientific research purposes.
The sale of whale meat from the hunt funds the research, Japanese officials add.
Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research, a partly-government funded body, said the Nisshin Maru is likely to be fixed in time for the whale hunt in the northern Pacific ocean in May or June.
One crew member died in the fire and conservationists had expressed fears that the ship could spill fuel into the pristine Antarctic environment.