Dozens injured after ferry hits 'marine life' in Sea of Japan

More than 80 passengers have been injured, several seriously, after a ferry struck what appears to have been a whale in the Sea of Japan.

The high-speed hydrofoil ship was on its way to Sado Island from the port of Niigata on Saturday when the accident occurred.

Ferry operators said the vessel hit an object, leaving a crack in its stern.

Public broadcaster NHK quoted a marine expert who said the scale of the impact suggests the ship hita whale.

In a statement, the operator apologised and said the vessel looked to have collided with "marine life".

"My throat hit the seat in front of me," one passenger told local media. "People around me were moaning [in pain]."

There were 121 passengers and four crew members on board at the time of the incident.

Minke and humpback whales are migrating through the Sea of Japan at this time of year.