April 22, 2009
Japan Launches New Fleet To Kill 60 Minke Whales
The Japanese government argued in support of its latest whaling mission on Wednesday, claiming that its call for the killing of 60 minke whales is for research purposes only.
The mission involving five ships "“ four whaling ships and one for research "“ left Ayukawa port in northern Miyagi prefecture on Wednesday.
The vessels will remain at sea until late May, according to the Japanese fisheries agency.
Japan uses a legal loophole in the 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling that states "lethal research" on animals is allowed, even though most of the meat is sold as food.
Last week, Japan's whaling fleet returned to shore after five months at sea, having fallen extremely short of their intended whaling goal.
The vessels killed 689 whales "“ well short of the intended 765 and 935, the agency said.
Shigeki Takaya of the agency's whaling division, blamed "harassment" by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society environmental group, whose ships repeatedly bashed into the boats and threw chemicals at the ships.
"It's necessary to research whaling in the Pacific as the ecological system of whales in the Pacific is totally different from the one in the Antarctic," said Takaya in support of Wednesday's fleet launch.
Greenpeace did not mention plans for protests at this time, but voiced its opposition to Japan's new mission.
"If Japan wants to simply conduct research, there is no need to kill (whales), either in the Pacific or the Antarctic," said Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan.
"For Japan, killing whales and producing whale meat comes first."
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