Japan's "Fake" Whaling Programme begins to Crumble in the Southern Ocean and Tokyo

Press release - 18 January, 2008
Echoing a series of scandals which have beset the Japanese government over the past twelve months, Greenpeace activists today sent a message direct from the Southern Ocean back to Tokyo, as pressure mounts inside Japan to end its controversial whaling programme.Holding the kanji symbol of the year [1], nise, meaning FAKE - against the hull of the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Maru, Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda sent a message to the people of Japan that this is yet another in a series of scandals that their government is trying to cover up by claiming that its whaling programme is legitimate research.

Today, one of the leading newspapers in Japan, Asahi Shimbun, also called into question the validity of the whaling programme [2], by asking "Why is the Japanese government so insistent on engaging in whaling?". The article cites concerns about the use of taxpayer's money, dubious science, the lack of interest from the fishing industry in supporting the whaling programme, and the fact that former employees of the Japanese government Fisheries Agency were "parachuted" into key roles in the supposedly independent Institute of Cetacean Research - the agency which commissions the whaling fleet.

"For the past week we have stopped the whaling programme here in the Southern Ocean", said Japan whales campaigner Sakyo Noda. "In Japan there is now growing concern about this fake science,  giving new opportunities to show how scandalous it is, in order to close it down for good," said Noda.

In addition, Tokyo's comments on the whaling programme are now usually handled by both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cabinet Office, a clear indication that the government is losing confidence in its own Fisheries Agency, the ministry that normally deals with whaling issues.

Earlier today, the Yushin Maru No.2, one of the harpoon-carrying "catcher boats" joined with the Nisshin Maru hundreds of miles north of the whale hunting grounds, where the Greenpeace ship Esperanza continues to keep the fleet's mother ship out of action.

The Esperanza has been chasing the Nisshin Maru since it discovered the whaling fleet in the early hours of January 12th - the factory ship then fled from the whaling grounds. Without the Nisshin Maru, the rest of the fleet cannot hunt, because the whales must be transferred to the factory vessel, cut up and frozen immediately after being harpooned.  The whalers plan to kill 935 minke whales this season, as well as 50 endangered fin whales.

"We have kept the factory ship and the rest of the fleet out of action for six days now" said expedition leader Karli Thomas. "No whales have been killed in that time. Now we've got two whalers out of the hunting grounds. If they try to return and begin hunting, we'll be launching our boats and carrying out peaceful, direct action, by putting ourselves in front of the harpoons to defend the whales".

Japan's so-called scientific research programme has been dismissed as useless by the International Whaling Commission, of which Japan is a member, and in 2007 the organisation passed a resolution calling for an end to Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Other contacts: Dave Walsh, Greenpeace International communications officer on board the Esperanza.Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Whales Project leader, on board the Esperanza. Tel: +873 324 469 014 and +47 514 079 86Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Whales Project leader, Tokyo. Tel:+81-80-5088-2990Photos are available from Michelle Thomas, + 81 903 593 6979 and video from Michael Nagasaka +81 806 558 4447, both in Tokyo

Notes: 1.In 2007, 90,816 people voted for the Kanji of the Year by internet, postcard and by attending the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, for the nise or gi kanji symbol, following numerous consumer scandals involving the false labeling of food and recycled paper and political funding and faulty pension records in Japan. (http://www.kanken.or.jp/event/index.html)2.Asahi Shimbun, 18/1/2008For more on Greenpeace Japan's work on whaling see: http://www.whalelove.orgGreenpeace 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.