Japanese whalers stop their hunt in the Antarctic Ocean for the season
18 February 2011, adapted from AFP and the Sydney Morning Herald

Japanese whalers have stopped their Antarctic hunt, under heavy conservationist and diplomatic pressure, just half way through their worst ever season, citing harassment by environmentalists.  Japan's Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano announced today that Japan would halt its Antarctic whaling mission for the rest of this season because of harassment by the militant environmental group 'Sea Shepherd Conservation Society' on the high seas.  Japan killed 172 whales this season, only about 20% of its target, said the Japanese fisheries agency.

Sea Shepherd activists have harassed whalers in recent years, moving their ships and their inflatable and speed boats between the harpoon vessels and the sea mammals, and throwing stink and paint bombs at the whaling ships.

                                                                             Photo Simon Ager
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) voiced cautious optimism that Japan would end the state-funded whaling programme, which had cost the country in both diplomatic and financial terms. For its part 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 Junichi Sato, Greenpeace campaigner in Japan.

Japan kills hundreds of whales a year under a loophole in a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows whaling for "scientific research", and the government has long defended the practice as part of the island-nation's culture.

Anti-whaling nations (led by Australia, the Buenos Aires Group of south American countries, New Zealand, Monaco) together with environmental groups call the hunts totally unjustified and unnecessary since scientific questions on whales can be largely answered today via non-lethal means [1]. Militant activists have for years harassed Japanese harpoon ships on their Antarctic hunts.


[1]   See CIESM Workshop Monograph 25    'Investigating the roles of cetaceans in marine ecosystems'