Japan’s whaling season is over, and it has turned out to be the least successful on record, thanks to efforts made by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society during this year’s anti-whaling campaign Operation Zero Tolerance.
“One whale killed is still one whale killed too many. However, today we celebrate the fact that with courage and conviction in the face of great danger and adversity, the brave crews of the four Sea Shepherd ships were able to successfully prevent the Japanese whaling fleet from reaching more than ninety percent of their self-allocated quota. This has meant saving the lives of 932 threatened, endangered and protected whales,” said Captain Peter Hammarstedt.
This year’s hunt lasted for 49 days, 21 of which were spent avoiding Sea Shepherd ships, with a clash between the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker, which were rammed by the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru during a refueling attempt in Australian waters that led Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) to label their actions “malicious and unacceptable.”
Whalers returned home this year after killing just 103 minke whales of their stated goal of 935 and no humpback or fin whales out of their goal of 50 for each. The group believes the number might have been even lower had the Ninth District Court of Appeals not granted an injunction ordering U.S. activists to stay out of the way earlier this year.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi blamed the “unforgivable sabotage” by activists, namely Sea Shepherd, for this year’s low numbers, reports the Japan Daily Press.
However, others are seeing this “sabotage” as a huge victory, not only for the whales who were saved, but because of the devastating financial loss this year’s low numbers have caused, which logically should spell the end of an industry that is being propped up by government subsidies to the tune of $9.78 million (USD) every year, including funds designated for tsunami relief.
According to Sea Shepherd, the take this year means financial disaster.
The overhaul of Nisshin Maru alone cost $24 million dollars. Outfitting, fuelling and operating costs added an additional estimated $11 million dollars. That figure may be much higher. Going on the conservative estimate of $35 million dollars, means that it cost the whalers a minimum of $340,000 per whale. There are only two words to describe this, “economic lunacy.” In addition there is the loss of prestige and the anger of the international community directed at the Japanese people.
Says Jeff Hansen, Sea Shepherd Australia Director:
Sea Shepherd Australia is elated that we have delivered the worst season to date to these whale poachers from Japan. These poachers have shown a complete disregard for cetacean life, human life and Australian and International law. By targeting protected and endangered whales in a whale sanctuary and risking massive oil spills in the pristine Antarctic wilderness, they are showing the world their contempt for ocean life and for the global community who has consistently called for an end to whaling.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the whaling nation will be swayed. Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said that Japan will still seek support from other countries so that they will be able to continue to “conduct research whaling” in an attempt to prove commercial whaling is sustainable. However, it’s not clear who they will be getting any support from. Australia filed a lawsuit against Japan with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing it of violating the 1986 global ban, while the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands continue to call for an end to whaling.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is also calling on Japan to end the slaughter and instead turn to whale watching – a humane, sustainable and profitable alternative.
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