JAPANS WHALE HUNT
Wednesday February 16th, 2011
JAPAN SUSPENDS ANNUAL WHALE HUNT
Pressure from campaign group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has led Japan to suspend its annual Antarctic whale hunt. The US-based activists have been chasing the fleet’s mother ship and it was decided by the country’s fisheries that whaling should be halted ‘for now’ due to concerns about safety.
Fisheries official Tatsuya Nakaoku said, 'Putting safety as a priority, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now. We are currently considering what to do hereafter.' He went on to say nothing more has been decided with regard to the hunt that would usually end mid-March.
Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 but Japan uses a regulation permitting hunting for scientific research, despite most of the meat ending up being sold as food. Iceland and Norway have also lodged official objections and continue to hunt commercially.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have been active in the icy seas for weeks with one of its boats blocking the main ship's stern loading ramp to prevent the crew from loading any harpooned whales. However recent reports from environmentalist groups state that the whalers are abandoning their usual hunting ground and are heading towards the tip of South America.
Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson said, 'If that's true then it demonstrates that our tactics, our strategies, have been successful... I don't think they've gotten more than 30 whales... certainly they haven't got many whales at all.'
This could be a major blow to the Japanese whalers. With four ships and 180 crew members they set a target of about 950 whales during the southern winter season. Whale is not actually widely eaten in Japan, with the main objections to the ban based on ‘unjustified foreign interference and a cultural tradition.’
In the meantime Australia, who along with New Zealand, lead up the main anti whaling groups says the hunts are cruel and unnecessary and has started legal action in the International Court of Justice against Tokyo over whaling.
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