The United States urged Japan on Monday not to continue with a whale hunt in the Antarctic. Assuming the hunt is, as Japan contends, for scientific purposes, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, nonlethal methods exist that could achieve the same goals. McCormack said it was especially important that Japanese whalers refrain from killing humpback and fin whales, both under protective status. A Japanese whaling fleet left the port of Shimonoseki in southern Japan on Sunday, heading for the Antarctic where the crews hoped to kill as many as 50 humpback and 50 fin whales, plus 935 minke whales. The Japanese Fisheries Agency says this largest-ever scientific whale hunt will last through April. "We call on Japan to refrain from conducting this year's hunt, especially with respect to humpback and fin whales," McCormack said in his daily briefing.