Following a week of potentially crippling budgetary reviews and a high-profile visit from US President Barack Obama to Japan, the so-called 'scientific' whaling fleet crept out of port. Greenpeace called for the departure to be the program's last.
Activists unveiled a 'Yes We Can' banner in front of the factory ship Nisshin Maru, calling on new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the visiting US President Barack Obama to work together to end whaling.
In their election campaigns, both leaders signalled that there is no future in whaling. The Obama administration is publicly opposed to 'scientific' whaling, while Hatoyama promised to wipe out bureaucratic corruption and the waste of taxpayer money, of which the whaling industry is a prime example.
This year, the fleet's Antarctic hunt will be subsidized by $8.8 million of taxpayer money. However, the program already operates at a loss due to lack of demand for whale meat - the wholesale price of whale meat has just been lowered for the second time this year in an effort to stimulate the low demand - and program costs are set to increase.
Elimination of subsidies to the program could also prove to be vindication for Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, who were arrested in 2008 and put on trial for intercepting a box of whale meat and exposing an embezzlement ring within the whaling program. While the resulting scandal made international headlines, the official investigation was suspiciously dropped, and Sato and Suzuki were arrested and put on trial.
With well over 9,000 minke whales killed in 22 years and no useful data produced, Japan's so-called 'research' in the Antarctic is an international embarrassment.
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