Tuesday marked the beginning of Japan's controversial fishing expedition to hunt and kill 333 Antarctic minke whales in defiance of the UN. So why does Japan think killing these whales is worth earning the ire of the international community and environmentalists? Discovery reports the estimated value of $33 million might have something to do with it. "What’s clear is that many people stand to earn a lot of money, and perhaps feelings of national pride in defiance of the International Court of Justice, once the killings begin," Discovery's Jennifer Viegas writes. Minke whales are some of the smallest in the world but are worth about $100,000 each in countries that consider whale meat "a nutritious, traditional, and health delicacy."
That estimated value comes from a new study published in Ocean & Coastal Management. According to Discovery, the study found the prior catching of minke whales wasn't always as accidental as often claimed. For example, fishers would set nets in areas they knew were frequented by minke whales or would wait until the whales drowned before freeing them from nets. Whale meat is such an engrained part of certain cultures, it's even served to some Japanese elementary students as a school lunch. Discovery notes it's unclear how many minke whales are in the wild or how Japan's resumed fishing of them will affect that population. (Read more whaling stories.)