Japan has temporarily suspended its annual Antarctic whale hunt because of an anti-whaling group following its ship.
Whale Hunt Halted Since February 10
The whale hunt has been suspended since Feb. 10 because of actions by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a U.S.-based environmental group.
From The Guardian:
Officials in Tokyo have conceded that this year’s mission, which had again been the target of international criticism, had not gone as well as hoped and the fleet may be called home early, according to reports.
Tatsuya Nakaoku, a fisheries agency official, said the decision was taken after the mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, was “harassed” by members of the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.
“Putting a priority on safety, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now,” he said. “We are currently considering what to do next.”
Reports said the government was considering halting the expedition entirely well before its scheduled end in mid-March.
Sea Shepherd described this year’s campaign as its most successful yet. “I see victory on the horizon,” a spokesman for the group, Peter Hammarstedt, told ABC News in Australia.
Aiming To Kill 945 Whales Each Season
Japan’s fleet involves 180 people on four ships, with the goal of killing up to 945 whales in Antarctic waters during the southern winter season.
However, the Sea Shepherd’s vessel, the Bob Barker, located the fleet as soon as it arrived and has been pursuing the mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, as it heads towards the Antarctic peninsula below South America. The harpoon ships are unable to kill whales unless the mother ship is there to process them.
Commercial Whaling Banned In 1986
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, but Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales despite worldwide opposition.
Under a provision of the ban, Japan is permitted to kill around 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean every year for “scientific research.”
Sea Shepherd has rejected that argument, saying the whale meat is sold in Japan and served in restaurants.
Sea Shepherd regularly harasses Japanese whaling vessels to make their hunts more difficult and to cut down on the number of whales killed.
Kudos to Sea Shepherd!
Photo Credit: mikebaird via Creative Commons