February 16, 2011

Whale Hunt Postponed Due To Environmental Group

Japanese whalers have suspended their annual Antarctic hunt, citing harassment by an environmental group that has been working to block their fleet's ships, various media outlets are reporting.

According to BBC News, the hunt has been temporarily halted due to safety concerns, and Frank Zeller of the AFP notes that those overseeing the whale hunt are considering ending the yearly event early due to interference of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Japanese Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku told Zeller that the fleet mothership, the Nisshin Maru, had suspended operations as of February 10 "so as to ensure the safety" of the crew. He added that they were "now studying the situation, including the possibility of cutting the mission early," but stressed that "nothing has been decided at this point."

The annual expedition is scheduled to end in the middle of March.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society told the BBC that one of their boats had been working to block the Nisshin Maru's loading ramp, which kept any harpooned whales from being loaded onto the ship. As a result, the whalers have departed from their regular hunting area near Antarctica and were en route to the southern tip of South America, the British news agency said.

"If that's true then it demonstrates that our tactics, our strategies, have been successful," Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson told the AFP news agency during a phone interview from onboard one of the organization's ships. "I don't think they've gotten more than 30 whales... certainly they haven't got many whales at all."

While whaling is legal for scientific reasons, and Japan claims that their 180 crew members and four ships are seeking to kill in excess of 900 whales for those purposes, they have not been "concealing the fact that much of the meat ends up on dinner plates," according to a report from Tokyo by the BBC's Roland Buerk.

Buerk also noted that few Japanese citizens regularly consume whale, but they "object to what they see as unjustified foreign interference in a cultural tradition."

According to Guardian reporter Justin McCurry, representatives from Sea Shepherd said that this was their most successful campaign to date, and spokesman Peter Hammarstedt told ABC News in Australia, "I see victory on the horizon."


Image Caption Bosun Benjamin Potts watches the Nisshin Maru and Yushin Maru No. 3 from the bow of the Bob Barker. Credit: Sam Sielen/Sea Shepherd Conservation Society


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