Japan brings home embattled whaling fleet

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, February 18, 2011 19:26 EDT
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by Frank Zeller

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan recalled its Antarctic whaling fleet a month early Friday, citing the threat posed by militant environmentalist group Sea Shepherd and demanding foreign countries crack down on the activists.

Tokyo told Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands to take action against the US-based group, which has used their ports or flown their flags in its campaign to stop Japanese whalers from killing the sea mammals.

Sea Shepherd, which says its tactics are non-violent but aggressive, has hurled paint and stink bombs at whaling ships, snared their propellers with rope, and moved its own boats between the harpoon ships and their prey.

On Friday, Japan said it was bringing home its four whaling ships, weeks before the usual end of the annual cull in mid-March, citing the need to protect their crew from Sea Shepherd’s sustained harassment.

Japan — which hunts the ocean giants under a loophole to a global ban that permits lethal “scientific research” — has killed 172 whales this season, only about a fifth of its target, the fisheries agency said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s top spokesman Yukio Edano called Sea Shepherd’s actions “extremely deplorable” and said: “We can’t help but feel outrage because the lives of the crew were endangered.”

Edano also pledged that Japan would keep hunting whales, telling a news conference: “We will work out definite measures to ensure we can continue research whaling without giving in to sabotage.”

Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tokyo had summoned the Australian, New Zealand and Dutch ambassadors and made “a strong request to take effective measures to avoid the recurrence of Sea Shepherd’s obstructionist activities”.

Australia — which last year launched legal action against Japan’s whaling programme at the International Court of Justice — and New Zealand earlier on Friday said they hoped Japan had given up whaling for good.

Sea Shepherd, which was still chasing the Japanese fleet in Antarctic waters, hailed the end of this year’s cull, the first time their activism has cut short the annual hunt, but pledged to keep shadowing the vessels.

“It’s great news,” group founder Paul Watson told AFP by satellite phone.

“We will however stay with the Japanese ships until they return north and make sure that they’re out of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.”

Sea Shepherd, supported by Hollywood stars such as Sean Penn and Pierce Brosnan, this season operated three boats and a helicopter.

Last year, its futuristic speedboat the Ady Gil sank after a collision with a whaler. Its captain, New Zealander Peter Bethune, boarded the Japanese ship weeks afterwards, was detained and later handed a suspended jail term.

Japan has long defended whaling as part of the island nation’s culture and makes no secret of the fact that the meat ends up in restaurants.

Tomoaki Nakao, the mayor of Shimonoseki, the port from where the whaling ships leave each year, said: “I want Japan to maintain a firm stand and continue appealing to the world about the legitimacy” of scientific whaling.

The US-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) voiced cautious optimism that Japan would end the state-funded whaling programme, which it said had cost the country in both diplomatic and financial terms.

“It’s not the end of Japanese whaling and it’s not the beginning but it might be the beginning of the end of commercial whaling in an international sanctuary,” said Patrick Ramage, director IFAW’s Global Whale Programme.

Greenpeace has long argued that the state-financed whale hunts are a waste of taxpayer money and produce excess stockpiles of unwanted whale meat.

“We want people in Japan and abroad to understand that behind the decision this time is the fact that fewer and fewer Japanese people eat whale meat,” said the group’s campaigner Junichi Sato.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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  • dk504

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Cry Whaling Fleet CRY….HAHA… Paul Watson WON!!!!!!!!!!!! He beat you with stinky butter. aaaaaHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAA. Go Sea Sherpard GO. I am so proud of you guys. I’ve been trying to rehab so I can get scuba certified, welding cert so I can volunteer for a tour of duty.
    Congratulations guys, well done. Keep fighting, your work isn’t over. Love you!!!!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UJ4XRIA3A3E6MYGK755EGWLN4Q Dani A

    I’m no fan of whaling, and japan’s little loophole is deplorable. we stopped whaling for a reason japan, that reason is so the whales will be there next year :|

  • Anonymous

    Laugh now. Wait until Japan’s had enough–which might be soon. More “aggressive” measures might be taken if those giving safe harbor to the Sea Stupid don’t deal with their internationally illegal actions.

    I’m no fan of whaling, but as long as a species in not endangered–like the minkes they hunt–then it’s hypocritical for any carnivore to wag a finger (or paw). Where I do find fault with Japan’s whaling program is that it’s not demand driven. Let Japan’s whalers hunt non-endangered species without any government subsides or forced consumption (of the toxic meat) in schools or retirement homes, and see how long the industry can support itself. It seems absurd to hunt any species just to keep alive some fictitious cultural tradition. As for Watson, the guy’s a total wanker as well as his crew of trust funder hypocrite thrill seekers.

  • Anonymous

    Al: Since the Japanese DO hunt endangered species of whale (fin whale and humpbacks), I assume that you will be changing your position.

    Source: http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20110128/NEWS/701289967/-1/news

    What say ye now, matey?

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately, many whales will likely starve to death as consequence to rising CO2 levels and the regional extinction of Thecosomata..

  • Anonymous

    Same as before, swabby. I’m against all activities which threaten endangered species. I’d love to see these brave Sea Shitters go after the U.S. Navy for killing whales. Now that would be amusing.