Fire-Damaged Whaling Ship Returns Home as Japanese Government Science Programme Data Reveals Minke Whales Could Be Immortal!

Press release - 23 March, 2007
The fire-damaged whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, returned to port in Tokyo in the last hour, just days after an International Whaling Commission review of the Japanese government’s so-called "research" programme (1) showed that virtually nothing has been learnt about whale populations in the Southern Ocean in 18 years of hunting.

The fire-damaged whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru enters Tokyo's bay.Greenpeace's ship, Esperanza, was in the Antarctic to stop the hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but instead stayed with the Nisshin Maru, assisting with safety for the crew and the whole fleet.Greenpeace is calling for the Nisshin Maru to be retired from the whaling fleet and for the government to give a full public account of the cause of the fire that left one man dead and the ship crippled in the icy Southern Ocean for ten days.

The JARPA whaling research programme review workshop report (2) states that the program cannot even establish reliable mortality rates for Minke whales, despite this being a prime objective of the program, and the statistical analysis cannot rule out a zero mortality rate - which would make Minke whales immortal!

None of the four objectives of the JARPA program, which involved harpooning 6,778 whales, was reached. Attempts to determine if populations were increasing or decreasing also failed.  The workshop “noted that the current confidence intervals for the estimates of trend are relatively wide. These results are, therefore, consistent with a substantial decline, a substantial increase, or approximate stability in minke whale abundance in these geographic areas over the period of JARPA." (2)

"It is not only the Japanese government's factory whaling ship that has been seriously damaged this hunting season, so has the credibility of the whaling programme with this review,"said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whale Campaign Coordinator. "The Japanese people have spent 18 years and millions of yen funding a so-called research programme that has produced nothing of substance."

Greenpeace is calling for the  Nisshin Maru to be retired from the whaling fleet and for the government to give a full public account of the cause of the fire that left one man dead and the ship crippled in the icy Southern Ocean for ten days.

Greenpeace's ship, Esperanza, was in the Antarctic to stop the hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but instead stayed with the Nisshin Maru, assisting with safety for the crew and the whole fleet by maintain regular ice surveys with the Greenpeace helicopter and offering additional emergency aid. Once the ship was operational again the Esperanza escorted the entire fleet out of Antarctic waters. 

The Esperanza, which is an ice-class vessel and files environmental impact assessments with Antarctic Treaty nations - unlike the Japanese whaling fleet- is now en route to Tokyo and is scheduled to be in Tokyo Bay on March 28th. Greenpeace has invited representatives from the Fisheries Agency of Japan and the Institute of Cetacean Research on board the Esperanza to discuss high seas whaling. 

VVPR info: In Tokyo, please contact Keiko Shirokawa, Greenpeace Japan Communications: +81 90 3470 7884Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Campaign Coordinator: +81 80 5088 2990On Board the Esperanza: Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Communications: + 872 324 469 014 (satellite phone)For Images please contact: Michelle Thomas, in Sydney, Australia: +61 404 096 556

Notes: 1. Japanese special permit research in the Antarctic (JARPA) was an 18 year program carried out from 1987/88 to 2004/05 and took 6,778 minke whales over that period. The IWC repeatedly asked Japan to call off the program, as the data was not needed and recommended that scientific research involving the killing of cetaceans should only be permitted where critically important research needs are addressed. 2. The JARPA review workshop was convened under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Committee and was held in Tokyo, 4-8 December, 2006 at the Institute of Cetacean Research. It was attended by 56 scientists including 29 from Japan and the Chair of the IWC's Scientific Committee. The main objective of the Workshop was to evaluate how well the objectives of JARPA had been met.