April 26, 2011

Devastated Japanese Whaling Community Prepares To Join Hunt

Two Japanese whaling vessels from Kushiro launched their annual coastal whale hunt from the tsunami-devastated areas on the east coast of the northern island of Hokkaido, a fisheries agency official told AFP. Joining the fleet will be 5 crewman from the Ayukawa Whaling company, the only whaling company in the fishing town of Ayukawa.

Already suffering from a recall of its Antarctic whaling fleet a month early from threats posed by the activist environmental outfit Sea Shepherd Society, the tsunami struck and destroyed Ayukawa Whaling's storage facility. The wave pushed its fleet of three whaling ships hundreds of yards inland, where they remain stranded far from the shoreline.

Minoru Ito, chairman of Ayukawa Whaling has said he would lay off all 28 employees and be forced to suspend operations in the town until further notice.

"Local whaling officials are preparing to accept people from Ayukawa, who were victimized by the disaster," Furukawa said, adding that another 23 people from Ayukawa had come to Kushiro to work in processing whale meat.

Sea Shepherd, a high profile, anti-whaling environmentalist outfit sets out to dissuade whaling companies from hunting in sometimes aggressive ways. The group, which says its tactics are non-violent but aggressive, has hurled paint and stink bombs at whaling ships, snared their propellers with rope, and moved its own boats between the harpoon ships and their prey.

Japan argues that whaling is an integral part of the island nation's culture despite an international ban on hunting whales for commercial uses. Japan continues however, to hunt under a loophole in the law that allows killing of the sea mammals for what it calls, "scientific research". The whale meat is then openly sold in shops and restaurants.


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