December 14, 2011
Annual Japanese Whale Hunt Riles Conservationists
Japan´s whaling fleet left port this month to begin the research whaling season near the Antarctic. The fleet was accompanied by ships from the Japanese Fisheries Agency in hopes of repelling activists of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, The Telegraph is reporting.
The United States, Australia and two other nations have urged both anti-whaling activists and the whaling fleet to avoid a repeat of violent clashes, warning of the risk of deaths and injuries.
The four countries were “disappointed” by the departure of the Japanese fleet for Antarctic waters, which are accessible for only a few months during the Southern Hemisphere summer. “We are prepared to deal with any unlawful activity in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws,” their statement said.
“We are deeply concerned that confrontations in the Southern Ocean will eventually lead to injury or loss of life among protesters, many of whom may be nationals of our countries, and whaling crews,” the governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States said in a joint statement.
Japan bypasses a 1986 moratorium on commercial whale hunting by claiming “lethal scientific research”, arguing that it has a right to monitor the whales´ impact on its fishing industry. Iceland and Norway are the only other countries that officially hunt whales.
Claiming it is necessary to substantiate its view that there is a robust whale population in the world, Japan makes no secret of the fact that meat from the animals ends up on dinner tables and in restaurants.
The four nations resist Japan´s claim it is carrying out research, saying they “wish to emphasize that lethal techniques are not required in modern whale conservation and management,” and, “We will continue to engage on this matter,” the four nations pledged, reaffirming their commitment to the “global moratorium on commercial whaling.”
Last season, the annual whale hunt by Japan resulted in less than a fifth of their quota and was cut short in response to harassment by the Sea Shepherd group which saw an activist boat sunk after a collision with a Japanese ship, Rob Taylor reports for Reuters.
Last year, Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in the Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling with a decision expected in 2013 or later. However the country has so far refused to send a patrol vessel to the Southern Ocean this year.
The Japanese fleet aims to catch around 900 minke and fin whales this season, according to a plan submitted by the government to the International Whaling Commission.
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