Japan's upcoming Antarctic whaling season is said to be in doubt, with more taxpayer money urgently needed to refurbish the world's only factory whaling ship, Nisshin Maru.
A government committee is to decide this week whether to undertake repairs to the ship which may take several months, Japan's Asahi newspaper said today.
The potentially costly repairs come with the whaling program under renewed scrutiny in a special investigation by broadcaster NHK over the diversion of government tsunami recovery funds.
The 25-year-old Nisshin Maru is the focus of Antarctic anti-whaling protests, and also takes part in North Pacific "research" whaling each year.
The whaling fleet was sent south last year after the government diverted about $30 million in tsunami recovery funds to pay debts and running costs in the loss-making venture.
Greenpeace Japan executive director Junichi Sato told Fairfax Media that this time aid was being considered from the so-called Profitable Fisheries Support Fund.
"Unless they get more subsidies, they will not be able to go," Mr Sato said.
Comment is being sought from the Japanese government.