Tokyo, 2 December 2010 - Japan's whaling fleet has been scaled back and its late departure moments ago was caused by lack of demand for whale meat, Greenpeace Japan revealed today. The fleet traditionally departs in November and returns in April but this year will conduct a shortened hunt, a clear indication that the annual senseless hunt serves no purpose.
“The reduced size of the Japanese whaling fleet means they will be unable to catch more than half of their quota,” said Wakao Hanaoka, Greenpeace Japan oceans campaigner. “This year, the Japanese whaling programme will not have enough catchers to kill its usual number of whales and will not have enough onboard freezer space to store the resulting meat. This wasteful taxpayer-backed programme produces products that no one in Japan wants. This reckless whaling must end once and for all.”
As of August 2010, there were over 5,700 tons of whale meat in frozen storage, over a year's supply. The Japanese whaling fleet has not delayed its departure into December for over twenty years.
The fleet's support vessel, the Hiyo Maru, which provided fuel to the fleet and transported frozen whale meat back to Japan, was scrapped in September of this year.  One of the three catchers, the Yushin Maru 3, will be used only for sighting whales, and will be operating away from the factory ship. The two ships that previously did sightings have been sold or scrapped.
“Sales of whale meat are so poor that Japan's fraudulent whaling programme can no longer afford the cost of at-sea refueling, so they are shortening their season,” added Hanaoka. “We are witnessing the further collapse of the already dying whaling industry: unable to retain crew or maintain public support- we will see them back in Japan much earlier than in previous years.”
Polls show that over 70% of Japanese people do not support distant water hunting of whales far from Japan. Greenpeace has been working to expose the corruption that has helped sustain its commercial whaling program, conducted under the guise of scientific research for years. Two activists were recently found guilty after having exposed a whale-meat embezzlement scandal and work continues in Japan to shine a light on this senseless hunt to the Japanese public, whose tax dollars subsidize the hunt for whales in an internationally-recognized whale sanctuary.
“The scientific credibility of this whaling never existed, and given the collapse of negotiations at the International Whaling Commission, it is time for the Government of Japan to end whaling subsidies and call in the loans given to the vessel operators. This whaling must end.”
Greenpeace is opposed to all commercial whaling in all of the world's oceans and is working to end whaling in Japan by raising public awareness of the whaling industry's corruption uncovered by two of its activists, recently found guilty in Japanese court. Greenpeace is appealing the guilty verdict, intent to prove that dissent and civil protest can and should play a more visible role in Japanese society.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
- Lloyd’s Seaweb lists the status of the Hiyo Maru as “broken up” as of 2 September 2010
- A document given to the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee (SC/62/O17) lists the Yushin-Maru 3 as being dedicated to the sightings survey. Another document (SC/62/O3) reported that in the 2009-10 season, the Yushin-Maru 3 was used only for sightings and did not hunt. The 2009-10 season was the first in which only two catchers were used since the programme began in 1987.
- A poll was commissioned by Greenpeace Japan in 2008, prepared by Nippon Research Center Ltd. (part of the Gallup International Association) and can be found at http://www.greenpeace.org/international/japanpoll