TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan has resumed whaling in the waters near Antarctica -- only days after groups hoping to stop it left the area, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told CNN on Friday.
The whale hunt resumed in the Southern Ocean on Thursday even as Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith arrived in Japan on a diplomatic visit. Australia opposes whaling, but Smith said the two nations "agree to disagree" on it.
"I regard the resumption of whaling in the last couple of days as disappointing," Smith said Friday.
"We would prefer if it hadn't occurred, but that's as a consequence of the Australian government having a strong view that whaling should cease."
Australian claims a section of the Southern Ocean as territorial waters, but that claim is not widely recognized.
Commercial whaling is banned in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary -- a protected area of 50 million square kilometers (19 million square miles) surrounding the continent of Antarctica.
But Japan is permitted to around 1,000 whales a year under international law because its whaling is considered to be scientific in nature. Anti-whaling groups view the whale hunters as poachers.
Japan has been hunting whales in the Antarctic and has a killing quota of almost 1,000 a year.
The whaling resumed after the Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd activist groups ended their disruptions. A Greenpeace spokesman said the group figures it helped save at least 100 whales during the 15 days it interfered with whaling operations.
A Greenpeace ship left the area on Jan. 26 to return to port for refueling. The Sea Shepherd left due to low fuel as well. E-mail to a friend
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