© Greenpeace/Naomi Toyoda
Japan's factory whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru was "welcomed" into Tokyo earlier today, by Junichi and our team from Greenpeace Japan, along with the word "failed" to accompany the ubiquitous and Orwellian "RESEARCH" painted on its hull.
During its five months at sea, the Nisshin Maruwas responsible for taking 551 minke whales from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary - far less than the 1035 whales planned, but more than a hundred than were killed three years ago. Our ship, the Esperanza, shutdown Japan's entire whaling operation for 15 days, during a 4300-mile chase of the Nisshin Maru across the Southern Ocean. The whalers are blaming the protestors (that'd be us then) for missing their target.
The whalers had also planned to hunt 50 endangered fin whales, and 50 vulnerable humpbacks; but they'd barely reached the Southern Ocean when international outrage forced Japan's government to back down on the iconic humpbacks. And as for the endangered fin whales - none were killed at all, which is extremely good news. Before the hunt, Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research (the agency that runs the "scientific" whaling programme) were mouthing off about a 'rapid increase' in fin whales (no whales reproduce "rapidly"... they're not like rabbits). Yesterday, however, fisheries agency officials reported that it wasn't possible to kill any fin whales - because they couldn't find any! So much for the rapid increase - just another sign of their failed research programme.
Fin whales, by the way, are the second largest animal on the planet after blue whales - growing up to 27m long, and weighing at a whopping 70 tonnes. While on board the Esperanza in the Southern Ocean, we were fortunate enough to see some fin whales.
Now that they Nisshin Maru is back, we're calling for an investigation into the refueling of the fleet in the Antarctic treaty zone. This refueling, which we attempted to block back in January - breached the spirit of the Antarctic treaty, to which Japan is a signatory. The whalers also used a vessel - the Panamanian-registered Oriental Bluebird - that no permit to be part of the whaling fleet. In Japan, the media - especially the business press - have started to question why Japanese government continues to subsidise the whale hunt - a loss-making, unwanted, and unscientific programme. Domestic and international opposition to the continuation of the whaling programme is steadily growing. Recent articles in newspapers like Asahi Shimbun report that the Institute of Cetacean Research failed to pay back 1 billion yen out of 3.6 billion yen of interest-free national funds (i.e. public, taxpayer's money) it had borrowed as operating cash in 2006. That's about USD $10 million, if my calculations are right.
© Greenpeace/Naomi Toyoda
In two months time, we'll have a team at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Santiago, Chile. Japan will probably be sending a large delegation again this year - a perfect opportunity for Japan to salvage its international reputation by announcing an end to Southern Ocean whaling and make a commitment to whale conservation, not destruction.
BBC: Turning tide of whaling opinion
Japanese Miss Whaling Target - Greenpeace Fetor Blamed »