October 27, 2009

Japanese Asks Authorities To Stop Whaling Activists

On Monday the Japanese head of state made a diplomatic but earnest plea for Netherlands' authorities to take punitive measures against a Dutch-registered sea vessel used by the radical environmentalist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to harass Japanese whaling ships in the waters of the Antarctic.

Shortly into his four-day trip to the country, newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama met with Dutch premier Jan Peter Balkenende and made a direct request that his government take action on the issue of vigilante vessels.

At a joint press conference, Hatoyama told international reporters that he had respectfully requested that Balkenende's government "handle the obstruction of maritime safety."

Balkenende reassured the Japanese leader that, "as to whaling...the Dutch government is working on a change in the law that would make it possible to take adequate measures against Dutch ships that commit unlawful acts."

Making clear the Netherlands' position on whaling, the Dutch Prime Minister added the comment that "[though] we disagree about whaling...we do not disagree on the importance of safety at sea."

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was founded in 1977 by former Greenpeace activist Paul Watson and currently has bases in Friday Harbor, Washington and Melbourne, Australia.  While touting its peaceful intentions as a non-profit environmental organization, the group has been taking increasingly heavy criticism in recent years for the violent character of many of their activities.

Japanese whalers have repeatedly reported being attacked by ships from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's fleet.  Some of the organization's aggressive offensives include throwing bottles filled with the chemical butyric acid onto whaling ships, stealing and destroying drift nets, boarding private vessels without permission and ramming ships on the open ocean.

The group's leadership, accuses Japanese whalers of exploiting a loophole in a 1986 international agreement prohibiting commercial whaling to continue killing the valuable and rare marine mammals.

In turn, many Far East observers and specialists have often criticized western whaling protesters for their ignorance of and insensitivity towards traditional Japanese culture and practices associated with whales and whaling.


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