Japan has conducted its first commercial whale hunts in more than three decades, dismissing international outrage over its decision to resume a practice that activists call inhumane and obsolete.

Here's a look at some key dates related to Japanese whaling.

Ancient tradition

Japanese fishermen are believed to have started whaling in the 12th Century, hunting the giant sea creatures with harpoons, according to the Japan Whaling Association.

In the early 1600s, organised whaling began in the western town of Taiji, now better known as a dolphin-hunting port that gained global attention after the 2009 documentary "The Cove".

Whaling base

In 1906, a fully-fledged whaling base was built in Ayukawa, Miyagi, heralding the nation's modern era of whaling.

At its peak in the 1950s, 2,000 whales were landed at the port amid growing demand for their meat as a key source of protein in the desperately poor years following World War II.

In 2011, a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake destroyed the base.

Japan joins the IWC

In 1951, Japan, by then one of the world's largest whaling countries, joined the International Whaling Commission, established in 1946 to conserve and manage the world's whale and cetacean population.

Research whaling

In 1987, Japan began "scientific research" whaling in the Antarctic, a year after the IWC introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling.

In 1988, Japan stopped commercial hunting of minke and sperm whales in Japanese coastal waters following the moratorium.

UN court decision

In 2014, the United Nations' highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), ordered Tokyo to stop hunting in Antarctic waters, saying the project did not meet conventional scientific standards.

Japan cancelled its 2014-15 hunt, only to resume it the following season under a new programme that it said had genuine scientific value. The European Union and 12 other nations condemned Japan's programme.

Commercial whaling bid rejected

In September 2018, the IWC rejected a bid by Japan to return to commercial whaling. Anti-whaling nations, led by Australia, the European Union and the United States, defeated Japan’s "Way Forward" proposal in a 41-to-27 vote.

Japan's vice-minister for fisheries Masaaki Taniai said his country would be "pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC".

IWC withdrawal

On 26 December 2018, Japan announced it was withdrawing from the IWC, triggering a firestorm of international criticism. The decision came into effect on 30 June.

Conservationists slammed the move, but some experts said the decision will likely sound the death knell for Japan's whaling industry, given the shrinking market for whale meat in the country.

Back to the hunt

Japanese vessels began commercial whale hunts in Japan's territorial waters on the morning of 1 July, catching their first whale by afternoon.