Whalers Depart Japan

Humpbacks to be Hunted

Feature story - November 16, 2007
Update: The expedition makes a pit-stop in Auckland, New Zealand for a much needed, emergency repair of our helicopter, Tweety. As soon as the repairs are made, the Esperanza will ship off and head to the Southern Ocean where the Japanese are embarking on their largest commercial whale hunt since the moratorium began twenty years ago.

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 in 20 years, 50 threatened humpback whales will also be harpooned.

The International Whaling Commission has called for an end to the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under Japan's whaling program.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is en route to the Southern Ocean, fast approaching the Japanese fleet as it heads toward the Whale Sanctuary. You can read the crew blog here >>.

"The Japanese government's "scientific" whaling program 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," said Karli Thomas, expedition leader aboard the Esperanza.

An opinion poll carried out in Japan by the Nippon Research Centre, in June 2006, 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.

Another study recently conducted by Julia Bowett, a PhD student from the University of Tasmania, found that among Japanese students approximately 65 percent agreed with the view that scientific research on whales should only use non-lethal methods.

To prove that you don't need to kill whales for research, Greenpeace is collaborating with a team of scientists on the "Great Whale Trail" project.

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.

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

"The Japanese Government should already know that information about whales can be gained without killing them. 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."

Japan has close to 4,000 tons of whale meat from its "scientific" whaling program in cold storage - uneaten, unsold, and unwanted.

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