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Japan to Launch Satellite to Study Whale Activity

Japan will launch a satellite this autumn to find out more about whales’ migrating patterns and other activities, officials at the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) said Tuesday.

Japan, criticized by conservationists for killing hundreds of whales each year, gave up commercial whaling in line with an international moratorium in 1986, but has been carrying out what it calls scientific research whaling since 1987.

The 110-pound satellite, to be launched around October, will be aided by the global positioning system (GPS) and will be used to spot whales carrying coconut-sized electronic tags equipped with transmitters, the officials said.

“We believe the system will help with Japan’s whaling plans,” a NASDA official said.

Japan stands by its position that Minke whales are an abundant species of whale despite global protests and complaints by environmental groups that some of the whale meat, a gourmet food in Japan, ends up being used by Japanese restaurants.