The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is calling the 2010 whaling season a “Spectacular Success” as Japan’s fleet returned home with just over half as many whales as they had set out to catch. The whalers are blaming the low kill on 31 days of harassment by anti-whaling activists.
The Japanese whaling fleet set out for the waters of Antarctica with a permit issued by the Japanese government to kill 935 Minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales. They returned to Tokyo harbor with the smallest catch in years: 506 Minke whales, one fin whale and no humpbacks. All of the whales killed by the Japanese fleet are considered protected and endangered.
The activists followed the whale hunters in their three boats for the entire hunt, causing clashes that “paralyzed the whalers.” The confrontation caused a collision between Japan’s harpoon ship Shonan Maru 2 and Sea Shepherd’s powerboat, the Ady Gil, in January. The Ady Gil was cut in half.
Captain Peter Bethune, of the Ady Gil, later boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to perform a citizen’s arrest of its captain. Instead Bethune was arrested for boarding the Japanese ship and charged with five crimes. He is awaiting trial in Japan and could be sent to prison.
Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd thinks all of the events of the season were worth the sacrifice. He said, “It was worth the months of effort. It was worth the cost. It was worth the loss of the Ady Gil. It was worth the arrest of Captain Pete Bethune.”
“Thanks to the courageous crews on the Steve Irwin, the Bob Barker, and the Ady Gil, thanks to the hundreds of shore based volunteers, thanks to the thousands of supporters, and thanks to Bob Barker and Ady Gil, Sea Shepherd hunted down the whale killers, confronted them, harassed them, and shut down their operations for a third of their season,” said Watson.
Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986, but Japan justifies its annual hunt as scientific research. Whale meat not used for study ends up in restaurants and shops.
Takashi Mori of Japan’s Fisheries Agency is lashing back at Sea Shepherd saying, “The lack of samples could affect the accuracy of our research.”
Captain Watson is proud that Sea Shepherd had an impact on Japan’s Fisheries Agency. He said, “We know the lack of ‘samples’ will impact their profits.”
“We hit them long and hard this year and all of our efforts and risks have paid off. There are now 528 whales swimming freely in the Southern Ocean that would now be dead if not for the fact that we intervened. It is a happy day for my crew and I and conservationists worldwide, a happy day indeed,” said Watson.
Sea Shepherd is certain the whaling fleet lost money this season and loss of revenue may be what finally stops the hunts. The average whale brings in $250,000 and it is estimated the low catch cost the whalers around $132 million US dollars.
This was Sea Shepherd’s sixth mission to stop Japan’s whalers and it was their most successful voyage to date.
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