SourceThe Japanese are planning to create the world's first whale farm.
They say it is to aid scientific research and the development of the mammals as domesticated animals.
Conservationists fear the Institute of Cetacean Research is setting up the farm to supply whale meat and blubber.
International rules allow the sale of whale meat only if the animals have been killed for scientific purposes.
Japan already gets around the ban by allowing the institute to organise annual whale hunts in the Southern Ocean.
The institute is estimated to make around £20 million a year from selling whale meat at Tokyo's fish market, reports The Sunday Times . It now hopes to create the farm at Hirado, in southern Japan. An underwater fence will keep the whales enclosed.
Dr Seiji Ohsumi, the institute's director general, said: "There are many things unknown about whales, especially minke whales, and we will be able to carry out research on their feeding behaviour and reproductive psychology.
"As our technology improves we will be able to develop them as domestic animals like cows and sheep and use techniques such as artificial insemination."
Richard Page, of Greenpeace, said: "It is obvious that the agenda is large-scale commercial whaling, an excuse for farming whales for food."
Naoko Funahashi, director of the Whale Conservation Coalition of Japan, agreed: "No valid research can be done for understanding whales' behaviour in such a confined environment."