Iceland's whale hunting season officially kicked off Monday, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission and ongoing public protest.
Two whaling boats had left port on Sunday, according to the Agence France-Presse. Iceland's government has given whalers a kill quota this year of 154 fin whales and 229 minke whales, AFP reports.
The fin whale is the second largest mammal in the world after the blue whale, and it's listed as endangered. The minke whale is not endangered But both species are protected under the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling, which has been in place since the 1985-86 season.
Iceland and Norway are the only two countries that object to the moratorium and continue to hunt whales. They set their own catch limits and report their catches to the commission.
According to the Animal Welfare Institute, Iceland does not track how long it takes each whale to die, making it impossible to know whether Icelandic whalers kill humanely.
Meanwhile, 768,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the tiny nation of St. Kitts and Nevis remove its flag and registration from the vessel set to deliver the whale meat from last year's hunt to Japan. The ship can't sail without the flag.