Fearing US reaction, Japanese whaling fleet hides in port

Press release - November 16, 2007
The Japanese whaling fleet has delayed its departure to the Southern Ocean for its annual whale hunt, to avoid political embarrassment when Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and US President George W. Bush meet today in Washington D.C.

The Greenpeace ship, 'Esperanza' is currently positioned just outside Japanese territorial waters and will be shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet after it leaves the port of Shimonoseki for its passage towards the Antarctic.

"Prime Minister Fukuda should not just delay the whaling fleet's departure to avoid political embarrassment abroad, he should cancel  Japan's entire whaling programme and decommission the vessels to end the domestic scandal of wasting Japanese taxpayers' money," said Karli Thomas, expedition leader aboard the Esperanza.

"The Japanese government's 'scientific' whaling programme is a sham and a source of diplomatic tension between Japan and countries that support whale conservation, like the United States. Whaling has no place in Antarctica - it's a place of peace and science, and this is not science," she emphasised.

Japan's annual Southern Ocean whale hunt is conducted under the guise of science but has been condemned internationally. This season, Japan aims to kill more than 1,000 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales and, for the first time this year, 50 threatened humpback whales. The International Whaling Commission has called for an end to the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under Japan's whaling programme.

"Japan's whalers are deceiving the Japanese public by painting the word 'research' on their ships," said Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan. "Real scientists don't need to kill whales to study them. This is commercial whaling poorly dressed up as science."

An opinion poll carried out in Japan by the Nippon Research Centre, in June 2006, (1) showed that 95 per cent of Japanese people never or rarely eat whale meat. More than two-thirds of Japanese do not support whaling on the high seas.  Japan has close to 4,000 tons of whale meat from its 'scientific' whaling programme in cold storage - uneaten, unsold, and unwanted.

Greenpeace is collaborating with a team of scientists on the 'Great Whale Trail' project. (2) Data from satellite tagging of whales, harmless skin biopsies and fluke identification has already yielded valuable information about the migration patterns of threatened humpback populations, without a single harpoon being fired. Greenpeace will display the location of the whaling fleet as it is tracked south by the Esperanza on the same map on which it is tracking humpback migration routes from their breeding grounds in New Caledonia and the Cook Islands..

Japan's whaling fleet will come close to several countries that have an economic interest in whale-watching. Some humpback whales are worth as much as a million dollars in tourist income to small Pacific Island States like Tonga. Whale-watching is the only truly sustainable economic form of activity involving whales and generates more than US $1 billion worldwide every year.

"The Japanese Government should already know that information about whales can be gained without killing them," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Project leader. "The Antarctic whale hunt is an expensive waste of Japanese taxpayers' money and goes against public opinion in Japan and overseas. The time has come for the Japanese government to end this hunt."

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

Other contacts: Dave Walsh, Communications officer on board the Esperanza: +872 764 149 675/+872 324 469 014 (GMT +9)Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Project leader, Amsterdam: +31 615 007 406 (GMT + 2)Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Project leader, Tokyo: +81-80-5088-2990 (GMT + 9)

Notes: 1. June 2006 Independent opinion poll by Gallup affiliate Nippon Research Center http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/whaling-poll-japan2. Great Whale Trail website: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/oceans/whaling/great-whale-trail

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