Greenpeace confronts Japanese whalers in Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary

Press release - 11 January, 2008
Following a 10-day search in Antarctic waters, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza today confronted Japan’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.The whaling fleet immediately took flight from the Esperanza, which is now in high-speed pursuit. While the fleet is on the run, the whalers are unable to hunt. If they try to start whaling, the Esperanza’s international crew of activists will take non-violent direct action to prevent the Japanese government’s slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales [1].

In a statement radioed to the whaling fleet, in Japanese and English, Greenpeace Japan Whales campaigner Sakyo Noda said, "Our vessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean to condemn your hunt, which includes endangered species, and to insist that you leave the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, and return to port immediately. Your so-called scientific whaling is a hoax, and has been dismissed as useless by the International Whaling Commission. Modern scientific research on whales does not require killing them."

When the whaling fleet left its home port of Shimonoseki in November, the government of Japan confirmed the sole purpose behind its so-called science programme is to bring about a return to commercial whaling.

"The Japanese people clearly do not support the whaling [2] that is being carried out in their name, and with their tax money", said Junichi Sato, whales project leader for Greenpeace Japan. "It is time for Prime Minister Fukuda to put an end to Japan's whaling scandal, and to recall the fleet home to Japan."

This is Greenpeace's ninth expedition to the Southern Ocean to defend the whales, and the second in the last twelve months. In February 2007, the Esperanza assisted and then escorted the Nisshin Maru out of Antarctic waters, following a fire that left the whaling factory ship disabled, and one crewman dead.

Other contacts: Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International communications officer on board the Esperanza. Tel: +47 514 079 86 Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Project leader, on board the Esperanza. Tel: +47 514 079 86 Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Project leader, Tokyo. Tel: +81-80-5088-2990 (GMT + 9)Photos are available from Michelle Thomas, + 81 903 593 6979 and video from Michael Nagasaka +81 806 558 4447, both in Tokyo (GMT +9)

Notes: 1. The whaling fleet has a self-appointed quota of 935 minke whales, and 50 endangered fin whales. In December 2007, following mounting international pressure, the Japanese government dropped its quota of 50 threatened humpback whales. 2. June 2006 Independent opinion poll by Nippon Research Centre is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.