Friday, February 18th 2011 - 06:00 UTC

Japan announces the end of its annual whale hunt in Antarctica

Japan ended its annual whale hunt in Antarctica early following clashes between its fleet and protesters, Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano said.

In December Japan had a stockpile of 4.455 tons of frozen whale meat

The government made the decision “to secure the safety of ships and their crew,” Kano said in a press briefing on NHK Television. Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official at Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said Sea Shepherd Conservation Society boats had chased the whaling ships and disrupted the hunt.

Japan spends as much as 60 million US dollars a year on its whaling programs and relies on official sales of meat from the Antarctic hunt to fund 85% of the costs. There have been frequent skirmishes between the whalers and Sea Shepherd activists, and Australia in May filed a case against Japan in the International Court of Justice claiming its whaling program is illegal.

Sea Shepherd said earlier this week it had trailed the Nisshin Maru ship for 3,220 kilometers near the Southern Ocean, and claimed it had prevented hunting since Feb. 9. The organization sent three vessels to the area to thwart Japan’s annual hunt, which it conducts using a rule under a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows “lethal research” on the mammals. This year’s quota is 945 whales.

“Sea Shepherd interventions have forced a closure to their illegal poaching activities,” the organization’s head, Paul Watson, said in a Feb. 16 statement.

Critics including environmental group Greenpeace International, argue the annual hunts are a waste of taxpayers’ money and take place for political rather than food supply reasons. Japan had a stockpile of 4,455 metric tons of frozen whale meat in December from previous expeditions, according to the latest official data.

“Japan’s whaling serves no purpose whatsoever and the fleet has no business in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” Junichi Sato, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, said in an e-mail. “An early return of the whaling fleet is not enough, Japan’s whaling ships should never leave port again”.
 

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1 Y Draig Goch (#) Feb 19th, 2011 - 02:55 am Report abuse
well done Sea shepard
2 thewhalepeople.com (#) Feb 19th, 2011 - 07:18 pm Report abuse
Although I am thankful for the end of the Japanese 2011 whaling season by Watson and his merry men (and women!), it is with prudence.

Although it was done with great effort by the Sea Shepherd, what we often miss is what lies beneath the retreat. It just seemed “too easy”. Obviously the Japanese did not want a full-scale situation. But to retreat may signal other plans. Such as getting agreements in with the U.S. to allow the hunting of gray whales. Keep in mind that the US Marine & Wildlife will not approve the gray whales to be placed on the endangered species list, even with suggestions by creditable research institutions.

But recent comments found in various press reports in different newspapers around the world, suggest that gray whale populations are “on the increase” and also being that the case, “gray whale populations may not be sustained in the ocean due to their recent growth”.

Hmmm. Let me see... Over one hundred years ago, gray whale populations were in the hundreds of thousands. Now, numbering less than 20,000 (not a true count - probably much lower) the same creatures may be “too much” for our oceans?

Enter the Japanese. There are already plans afoot to move their hunt to the north of their country and in their own “international waters”. And with the sanction/blessing of the U.S. government that grays have “saturated” the ocean, I am concerned by recent press that this is but a “set-up” to hunt more whales.

And although your report is quite well done, in 1996 Japan was recorded with 1600 tons of frozen whale meat. Now, in 2011, 6,000 tons of frozen whale meat sit in Japanese food lockers! You report 4,800 tons, but it is 6,000 TONS!!!

Japanese officials are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get this meat distributed into their masses, when in fact less that 1 1/2% of the culture eat whale meat! They have tried making flavored hamburgers and hot dogs, pushing whale meat into parochial school lunches,etc.

I wonder what is next.

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