The Nisshin Maru and friends.
At around 17:30 today, the expedition leader of the Japanese government's whaling fleet radioed, informing us that the Nisshin Maru plans to start sailing in three hours. He also said that the whole fleet was currently being re-fuelled, in preparation for departure.
Spinning around: lack of transparency
Japanese government officials in Tokyo - and their PR spindoctor in New Zealand have continually trivialsed the extent of what has truly been a serious situation in the Ross Sea. Since the fire last Thursday, they've failed to show transparency - either with the rescue authorities or other governments, about the extent of the fire, as well as the risks both to human life and the Antarctic environment. They even publicly stated - a little too quickly - that they hoped to just keep on whaling! According to Japanese press, they also failed to inform the family of 27 year old crewman Kazutaka Makita that he had died in the fire - his family was left to find out through media reports. This lack of transparency is one of the reasons we don't believe their rhetoric about "sustainable" whaling.
If the Japanese government insists bringing its whaling fleet into the Southern Ocean, it's not only the whale populations that are threatened - Antarctica and the marine environment are also at risk.
The Japanese whaling fleet causes unacceptable risk to the environment and marine life. This is the Nisshin Maru's second fire - the first was in 1998. The Oriental Bluebird, which was tied alongside the factory ship for the last nine days, is a single-hulled tanker flying a Panamanian flag of convenience. It's currently re-fuelling the whaling fleet, none of the which are ice class (unlike the Esperanza) - despite routinely operating in icy conditions.
The Japanese government does not file an environmental impact assessment for the whaling fleet's operations in Antarctica; while there is no legal obligation to do so, Japan is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty. The Japanese government does have an obligation to follow the spirit of this international agreement and their whaling operation shatters both the spirit and intent of the Treaty.
Antarctica is a global commons, and the responsibility of all governments to protect for the good of humanity. The Antarctic Treaty System's stated objective is this:
"in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord."
We're calling on all signatories to the Antarctic Treaty and members of the International Whaling Commission to get some serious high-level political work done to make sure this is the last season that any whaling fleet comes to Antarctica.
At this stage, if the fleet simply sails north out of here, we'll stick with them, and keeping offering assistance. If they don't leave, you can bet we'll be right there, taking peaceful direction action to stop them killing whales.
Hopefully, 2007 is the last time a whaling ship ever enters the Southern Ocean. This expedition was only one part of our campaign to ending whaling. We have a broad campaign that focuses in Japan, because that is where the decision to end Antarctic whaling will ultimately come, we are pressuring politicians at the highest level to act rather than talk at the coming International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, and we are mobilizing support worldwide to bring an end to whaling.
Updates from our ship, the Esperanza, as they happen!
Live webcam on the bridge of the Esperanza