A growing number of Japanese environmental and consumer groups are protesting against the use of funds raised for March 11 devastating quake and tsunami reconstruction to subsidise the loss-making whaling fleet.

The Japanese government recently gave the whalers 2.28 billion yen as part of a special budget for recovery from the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, much of the extra funding will go towards security forces for the whaling fleet, which left Japan yesterday for the Antarctic.

Now, a total of 18 Japanese non-government organisations, including the Environmental Lawyers Federation and Consumers Union have signed on to a protest letter to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

"We demand the government not waste any more taxpayers'' money on the whaling program, but instead spend this money on projects that actually help the people, communities and region affected by the tragic March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis," the letter said.

"It is clear that the Japanese government's stated goal of resuming commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean is unachievable. The whaling program cannot survive without taxpayer handouts," it added.

The Fisheries Agency of Japan, however, said the funding was necessary because some traditional whaling communities were devastated on March 11.

Senior Agriculture and Fisheries vice-minister Nobutaka Tsutsui recently said the government was determined to continue its research program until it led to the resumption of commercial whaling.