Japan's Fisheries Minister has promised that his country will never stop hunting whales, despite criticism from other nations.
In an interview, Mr Hayashi denounced criticism of the whaling hunt as a cultural attack and prejudice against Japan.
The minister says Japan has a long tradition of whaling, comparing it with other cultures and pointing out that Koreans eat dogs and Australians kangaroos.
He says Japan is an island nation that should take protein from the sea.
The Japanese fleet is struggling to catch any whales during this year's Antarctic hunt because of constant harassment by anti-whaling activists.
The conservation group Sea Shepherd says Japan has sent a military ship to the Southern Ocean to support the whalers.
They want the Australian Government to intervene in their clashes with the Japanese whaling fleet now in Southern waters.
Mr Burke says the Shirase has conducted genuine whale research in the past and he is seeking urgent confirmation it is not involved with the whale cull.
Japan says it conducts vital scientific research using a loophole in an international ban on whaling, but makes no secret of the fact that the mammals ultimately end up as food.