Whale Science in-action

Feature story - November 8, 2005
It’s that time of the year again, the six ships of the whaling fleet are leaving Japan and heading back to the culling ground, the “Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” to carry out “scientific testing” on 1000 whales. The “scientific test” involves harpooning the whale, measuring and weighing the carcass, slicing and dicing, and finally delivering it to markets, boxed and frozen.

SOUTHERN JAPAN The whaling ship Nisshin-maru departs from Aruka port, Shimonoseki, Southern Japan together with a fleet of four catcher ships bound for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with the intention of killing 1,000 whales. Greenpeace called upon the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) and the companies behind the whaling to immediately recall the fleet and cancel the cull.

TheInternational Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986. TheSouthern Ocean was declared a Whale Sanctuary in 1994. Yetevery year  the Fisheries Agency ofJapan (FAJ) sends the fleet of whalers back to the Southern Ocean via aloophole in international law. The IWC has said it does not need thedata produced by the 'research' and strongly urges Japan to call itoff. The scale of the hunt leads only to one conclusion, that this iscommercial whaling.

"Sanctuary means refuge or safe haven, yet this year nearly 1,000whales will receive neither from the whaler's harpoon," warned JohnFrizell of Greenpeace International. "The Sanctuary is there to helpwhales recover after over a century of relentless persecution sentpopulations plummeting. Japan should join all other countries inrespecting the Sanctuary."

Earlier this year, the FAJ announced at the annual meeting of the IWCits intention to more than double its "scientific" cull to 935 minkewhales and to add 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales over the nexttwo years. Both humpback and fin whales are listed as endangeredspecies.

The Fisheries Agency of Japan claims, "according to Japanese culturalvalues… whales are viewed as a food source." However, an opinion pollcommissioned in 2002 by the influential Japanese Asahi newspaper foundthat only four percent of the Japanese population regularly eat whalemeat nine percent rarely eat it; 53 percent haven't eaten it sincechildhood and 33 percent have never eaten it.

"In reality few Japanese people view whale meat as a vital food sourceand even fewer actually eat it. It is simply not true that whaling isimportant to the Japanese public and the whaling fleet should not leavefor the Antarctic whale sanctuary," said Mizuki Takana of GreenpeaceJapan.

The FAJ also claims that whales are contributing to the collapse offish stocks. "Ninety nine per cent of the catch will be Southern Oceanminke whales which eat krill and not fish. Only the newly addedendangered Fin and Humpback whales eat fish," said John Frizell, Oceanscampaigner at Greenpeace. "Are we really saying that we cannot spare afew fish for endangered whales?

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