SHIMONOSEKI, JAPAN (CNN) – Japanese media reports that three whale research vessels have returned to the western city of Shimonoseki after completing what could be their final expedition.
The ships arrived on Saturday at the Shimonoseki Port in Yamaguchi Prefecture. They departed for the Antarctic Ocean last December for scientific research.
This may be the last whaling mission, following a decision by the International Court of Justice in The Hague last month that found Japan’s whaling program cannot be recognized as serving research purposes.
The court, which is the main judicial arm of the United Nations, rejected Japan’s argument that the whale hunt was for scientific purposes.
The Australian government challenged the Japanese whaling program in the court, leading to the ban.
The Fisheries Agency in Japan has suspended the expedition to the Antarctic Ocean that was scheduled to start in December.
Shimonoseki has flourished as a whaling base for more than 150 years. It hosted an international whaling conference in 2010.
Japan says it will abide by the ruling.