Feb 182011

Japanese whaling fleet abandons whaling grounds

16/02/2011 09:10:31

whales/whales_2010/maru_barkerThe Yushin Maru No. 3 and the Nisshin Maru flee from the Bob Barker. (photos by Sam Sielen).

Japanese Whalers Escorted out of the Whaling Grounds
February 2011. According to government sources, Tokyo has now decided to cut short this year’s Antarctic whale hunt and Japan’s whaling fleet is heading back to port with less than half of its projected quota according to Japanese media reports. The Japanese whaling fleet is heading eastward at full speed and is now east of the boundary for their whaling grounds. With the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and the Gojira in pursuit, the Japanese factory whaling ship, Nisshin Maru, continues to head eastward at 14 knots.

Both the whaling ships and the Sea Shepherd ships Bob Barker and the Gojira are now closer to South America than to New Zealand and Australia. This position is 3000 nautical miles southeast of Hobart, Australia and 1700 miles southwest of Patagonia, Argentina.

The Nisshin Maru is making erratic course changes. “It’s like they spin the bottle every watch to see what course to set,” said Alex Cornelissen, Captain of the Bob Barker. “There is no rationality in these course changes. They go east, then south, then west, then north and then back east again. In short, they are burning quite a bit of fuel, going absolutely nowhere, and without being able to kill a single whale.”

The Steve Irwin is southeast bound, out of Wellington, en route to rendezvous in about a week with the other two Sea Shepherd ships and the Japanese whaling fleet.

The Sea Shepherd ships have been blocking
access to the factory ship so the boats that
actually kill the whales have been unable to hunt.

The eastern boundary of the Japanese whaling operations is 145 degrees west. The whaling ships and the two Sea Shepherd ships are now at 72 degrees south and 133 degrees west on a course of 145 degrees.

End to whaling for 2011?
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has welcomed reports that Japan has called an early halt to its cruel whaling activities in Antarctica.

In November last year, in defiance of global opposition and several international laws, Japan’s whaling fleet set off for the pristine Southern Ocean Sanctuary with the intention of training its harpoons on around 1,000 whales. Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the loophole of ‘scientific whaling’, yet while the meat is put on sale in restaurants and supermarkets, little science has been produced from the slaughter of these animals.

Whaling fleet heading back to Japan
Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Under pressure from all fronts the Japanese whaling fleet is apparently withdrawing early this season from the internationally recognised sanctuary around Antarctica. IFAW welcomes this positive move for whales. Ultimately, the decision to finally end whaling for good will take place not in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean or on the floor of the International Whaling Commission but in the halls of power in Tokyo, Oslo and Reykjavik.

“We hope this is a first sign of Japanese government decision makers recognising there is no future for whaling in the 21st Century and that responsible whale watching, the only genuinely sustainable use of whales, is now the best way forward for a great nation like Japan.”

Whale watching is a $2.1 billion business
Whale watching currently generates around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities around the world.

Whales face more threats today than at any other time in history. IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Footage of previous Japanese whaling has shown whales taking up to half an hour to die after being shot with explosive harpoons.

In December 2010 IFAW sponsored an international whale watching conference in Tokyo, Japan which attracted delegates from around the world, including the last three countries still carrying out whaling for commercial reasons – Japan, Iceland and Norway.

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