Tokyo -

Japan will not conduct whaling operations in the Antarctic Ocean this year in the wake of a UN court ruling, the government said on Wednesday.

Japan decided not to send a whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean later this year after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague said on Monday that Japan must end its “research whaling” programme.

Australia had brought the case to the ICJ in 2010, alleging that Japan was breaching international law by killing hundreds of whales every year for commercial purposes.

“It is extremely regrettable and disappointing, but we will abide by the ruling,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday in a meeting with Koji Tsuruoka, who represented the government in the case, the Kyodo News agency reported.

Japan officially halted commercial whaling in 1987 in response to the previous year's moratorium, but it has used a loophole to continue whaling under the premise of scientific research, despite international opposition. - Sapa-dpa