With the whaling mother ship Nisshin Maru set to undergo repairs, doubts have been aired whether Japan would undertake the annual whaling expedition in the Antarctic this year.
While Japan's Fisheries Agency plans to refit the 8,000-tonne Nisshin Maru, deployed for Antarctic whaling expeditions each year in the hope of getting at least another decade's service out of it, anti-whaling activists hope the ageing ship would be out of action for the upcoming whaling season.
According to the agency, the ship needed a major overhaul, even as it stressed that the refit would be completed in time for this season's hunt in Antarctic waters during the southern summer.
While it is the relatively faster and smaller harpoon ships from which the actual whaling is done, it is in the larger Nisshin Maru that the catch is butchered, processed and chilled.
It is believed that Japanese taxpayer dollars would go to fund the ship's repair. Meanwhile, Greenpeace has called for ending government subsidies and accused the Japanese whaling industry of stealing taxpayers' money from the Fukushima recovery effort.
"The Japanese government can and must allow this industry to disappear into history - where it belongs," Greenpeace spokesman Junichi Sato said in a statement.