The Japanese Government whaling fleet is finally leaving the Southern Ocean, according to their expedition leader. The Nisshin Maru, disabled for nine days by fire, is moving under her own power. We hope this is the last time the fleet threatens both the whales and the pristine Antarctic environment.
Update 28 February
The Esperanza (foreground) and the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru, disabled by a recent fire.
This just in from the Japanese Government's whaling spokespersons in Tokyo:
The Institute of Cetacean Research, in conjunction with Kyodo Senpaku and the Government of Japan, said today the Antarctic whale research program for the 2006/2007 austral summer season will be cut short as a result of a fire aboard the research mother vessel, the Nisshin Maru.
We've expected this for some time. We urge you to join us in working to ensure the Nisshin Maru never returns to the whaling grounds.
At around 17:30 New Zealand time on Saturday, the expedition
leader of the Japanese government's whaling fleet radioed,
informing us that the Nisshin Maru - disabled nine days previously
by fire - planned to start sailing in three hours. He also said
that the whole fleet was currently being re-fuelled, in preparation
The Esperanza arrived at the location in the Ross Sea at about
07.00 (New Zealand daylight time) on the 17th of February. Two
ships - the re-supply and re-fuelling vessel Oriental
Bluebird and one of the harpoon, or catcher boats - were tied
either side of the Nisshin Maru. In the time since then,
Greenpeace has offered to tow the vessel out of the pristine
Antarctic environment, while providing assistance in the form of
ice surveys and translation for the US Coast Guard.
That the whalers are finally on the move is a relief - after
nine long days of risk to the pristine Antarctic environment. We're
ready to escort the fleet out of Antarcticwaters.
We're pretty unimpressed with how Japanese government officials
in Tokyo - and their PR spin doctorin New Zealand - have done their
best to trivialise the extent ofa serious situation here in the
Ross Sea. Since thefire last Thursday, they've failed to show
transparency - either withthe rescue authorities or other
governments, about the extent of thefire, as well as the risks both
to human life and the Antarcticenvironment. They even publicly
stated - a little too quickly - thatthey hoped to just keep on
If the Japanese government insists bringing the whaling fleet
intothe Southern Ocean, it's not only the whale populations that
arethreatened - Antarctica and the marine environment are also at
risk. Atthis stage, if the fleet simply sails north out of here,
we'll stickwith them, and keep offering assistance. If they don't
leave, youcan bet we'll be right there, taking peaceful direct
action to stopthem killing whales.
at the weblog.
I-GO Supporter idea #5262: Stop Japan's vote buying
Participate in "Madmermaids" campaign idea to name and shame countries taking bribes from Japan in exchange for whaling votes. Create your own campaign at the I-GO site.
See what the Esperanza sees with our live webcam from the bow of the ship.