The dodgy whale meat. © Greenpeace
According to some juicy information received by our team in Japan, the crew members of the Nisshin Maru and the rest of the whaling fleet, who would by now have already left port for the annual North Pacific whale hunt, have been ordered to stay at home. Bummer for them - but it gives the whales a reprieve, for now.
The information came to us just two weeks after we revealed a major scandal of stolen whale meat from the Southern Ocean hunt - allegations which are now being fully investigated by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor.
Normally the North Pacific whale hunt begins in May, however we reckon that it's now on hold due to a combination of the stolen whale meat investigation, and the government of Japan fearing any more international scrutiny taking place during the series G8 meetings. At one of the meetings, Japan's foreign minister will be sitting down to talk his opposite numbers in the US and Australia - both countries who support the protection of whales.
Here's a list of historic departures for the North Pacific Hunt, to give you some idea of what the whalers are playing at:
2000 - July 29th - G8 Summit in Japan, July 21st to 23rd
2001 - May 11th
2002 June 28th - G8 Summit in Canada, June 26th-27th (disputes around Alaskan aboriginal hunts with the US)
2003 - May 13th
2004 - June 10th - G8 Summit in the US, June 8th -10th
2005 - May 13th
2006 - May 23rd
2007 - May 11th
Notice a pattern?
Delaying the hunt isn't really going to stop pressure from the international community to stop whaling. Both the North Pacific and the Southern Ocean whaling programmes should be halted, and the whaling vessels mothballed. Fleet operators Kyodo Senpaku or the Institute of Cetacean Research shouldn't be granted any further permits for so-called "scientific whaling" or any other kind of whaling. The whalers are coming under increasing criticism in the Japanese press, with newspapers like the Asahi Shimbun (8 million daily circulation) questioning the "corporate largess" of the whale meat scandal, then the industry is propped up by an annual investment of 500 million yen (USD $5 million) from the taxpayer.
As out intrepid whale campaigner in Tokyo, Junich says,
"It is ironic that taxes are being spent on hunting whales - which only a tiny percentage of Japanese people still consider 'food' - when attention should be focused on the impacts of climate change on food supplies, especially considering the huge percentage of food that needs to be imported into Japan," added Sato. "Prime Minister Fukuda should spend his time solving these issues, not wasting it and taxpayer's money on whaling."
Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda arrives Europe this weekend, with an itinerary that includes attending discussions on food security issues at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting in Rome.
For those of you who haven't read it yet, you can grab the Stolen Whale Meat Scandal dossier here »