Whaling fleet attempts to sneak out of port

Feature story - November 17, 2008
Our activists marked the departure of Japan's whaling fleet from the port of Innoshima with banners declaring "Whaling on Trial" and another in Japanese outlining the whaling operation's multi-million dollar drain on Japan's taxpayers. The fleet had attempted to leave for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary unnoticed, by canceling their traditional high-profile departure ceremony in Shimonoseki. Instead, the factory ship Nisshin Maru left with no fanfare, waved off only by the crew's families and whaling officials.

The real criminals in the whaling industry have yet to be charged.

The  whaling industry has been beleaguered by stories of corruption, confusion and collapse. First, our  undercover investigation exposed an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the industry. We discovered whale meat being smuggled off the ships, mailed to private addresses, and sold for personal gain -- worth so much that one crew member boasted he had built a house on the proceeds.

Our expose brought calls from Japan's most respected newspaper, Asahi Shimbun, and the Tokyo public prosecutor for a full investigation. The taint of scandal made sailing aboard the whaling ship become less attractive and, with the introduction of tiny official "souvenir whale meat" allocations, less lucrative. Now, for the first time ever, the fleet is sailing without an all-Japanese crew.

Then we went after the whaling fleet's refueling and cargo vessel, Oriental Bluebird. It was fined and deflagged for violations of its Panamanian license. Without the Bluebird, the fleet will be lacking the ability to transport whale meat back to Japan. If they don't find a replacement, they will be forced to cut back on the hunt.

Oops!

It was no surprise to us when the Japanese media reported this week, from a source within the industry, that the whalers were cutting their self-appointed quota of harpooned whales by 20 percent. And it wasn't surprising when this news was then contradicted by a spokesman for the Japan Fisheries Agency, who insisted that they would still aim to hunt the usual 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales. The Japanese government is divided over the whaling issue, and this isn't the first time that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing.

To add to the evidence of this industry's downward spiral - it was also announced that 'Yushin,' the flagship whale meat shop and restaurant in Asakusa, Tokyo, will close down in 2010 due to ongoing financial problems.

Constant pressure on Japan's whaling industry by the international community has reduced the fleet to sneaking out of port in a fog of crisis and scandal, desperate to avoid attention. It's clear that the entire whaling programme is a shambles, driven by bad business and worse science.

This year we're focused on bringing an end to whaling from within Japan, where 71 percent of the public do not support the taxpayer-subsidised whaling programme.

Beginning of the end

But the whalers won't go down without a fight. Already, they have lashed back at our office in Japan, orchestrating the political arrest of two of our activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, for their role in exposing the whaling scandal. They've been charged with stealing the whale meat they turned over to the police as evidence, and face up to ten years in prison. The police raided our offices, seizing supporter data, documents, and computer disks 

We refuse to be shut down. We'll continue making the case to the Japanese people that the whaling programme is simply a shameful misuse of taxpayers money. The obvious disarray within the whaling industry and the extreme overreaction by the authorities towards the Junichi and Toru shows that we are successfully pulling the rug out from under the whaling industry's feet.

It's the beginning of the end and it's time for Japanese taxpayers to demand the government stop subsidising this bankrupt programme, and to order the fleet home.

Take Action!

If Japan is going to start rounding up political prisoners for the crime of defending whales, they're going to have to arrest a whole heaping lot of us. Sign the petition to stand in solidarity with Junichi and Toru.

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