South Korea has announced that it plans to restart its whaling operation, a move that has caused uproar among governments and environmentalist groups.

South Korea said that it would pursue scientific research in the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, held in Panama City, adding that it would submit its research plan shortly. The government also cited that eating whale meat has long been part of its culinary culture.

Anti-whaling governments have recently condemned Japan’s steps on using the scientific loophole for whale hunting. Japan claims that whale hunting has long been a “cultural tradition”. Critics have said that the countries are simply using scientific research as an excuse for commercial whaling. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the Wall Street Journal, “I’m very disappointed by this announcement by South Korea. We are completely opposed to whaling, there’s no excuse for scientific whaling”.

According to the Journal, the South Korean government banned commercial whale hunting in 1986 but allows sale of whale meat from those “accidentally” caught in fishing nets. The rate of accidental whale catches has since become unusually high, critics said.