More than 1.6 tons of whale meat were served as school lunch in over 100 schools in Kyoto, Osaka and Nara prefectures and Tokyo in January, almost double of the amount for the whole 2005, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.
The education board of Japan's central prefecture of Wakayama, with its strong whaling tradition, is promoting the use of whale meat in schools. The efforts were viewed as necessary since Japan's inventory of whale meat has doubled in the past decade.
Japan's whaling program, dubbed "research whaling", has been under harsh criticism from ecologists worldwide who see the program as a cover for commercial hunting. Whale meats are sold in the country's domestic markets after the whales are killed for the so-called "research".
Wakayama resumed the regular use of whale meat for school lunch in January 2005, introducing whale meat dishes to over 200 schools last year. It has also asked education boards of other prefectures to use the meat. Schools in Nara and other prefectures began to offer whale meat from the latter half of 2005.
Last year, around 1,035 tons of whale meat hit the market in Japan, according to the Fishery Agency.
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 but approved limited hunts for research purposes a year later.
Except in whaling areas, the use of whale meat for school lunch in Japan has been suspended in the 1980s, according to Kyodo.