Japanese whaling ship outlawed

Feature story - 28 October, 2008
Yet another nail has been put in the coffin of Japan's dying whaling industry. We've managed to get the Oriental Bluebird, re-supply and transport ship of Japan’s whaling fleet, de-flagged and fined, following a legal ruling by Panamanian authorities. We are now calling on Japan to scrap the illegal vessel together with the rest of the whaling fleet.

Japan's "research" whaling program continues to fail on all accounts.

The Oriental Bluebird, used to refuel the Japanese whaling fleet inthe Southern Ocean and to ship whale meat back to Japan, was found to be in violation of a number of domesticand international regulations by Panamanian authorities. On October 8th it was fined themaximum penalty due to violations relating to its permissible use, the safety of human life and thepreservation of the marine environment.  In human speak, that means that the ship, which was only supposed to be refuelling the fleet (in one of the most fragile and pristine environments in the world) was not supposed to be transporting whale meat.

They should scrap the entire fleet - not just the fridge!

We're proud to chalk up this victory.  Last year, we took action against this ship in the high seas to prevent the fleet from refuelling, and joined with other environmental groups in Panama to demand the vessel be de-flagged.  We asked why a ship flagged by Panama was allowed to deliver whale meat to Japan, when Panama, as a party to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, is specfically  forbidden from any such trade. Panama asked a more basic question: why was it transporting whale meat at all when it only carried permits for refuelling?

Without a flag the owners of theship, Hiyo Shipping Co. Ltd in Japan, will be urgently looking for anewflag State. But it would make a mockery of international maritime lawif Japan continued to rely on the services of this vessel. They shouldscrap it and end the annual hunt in the Southern Ocean WhalingSanctuary.  

Or will they make a mockery of the law?

Japan has ratified an international treaty which seeks to end the practice of 're-flagging' vessels in order to circumvent international environmental law. The treaty bars Japan from authorising a ship to participate in the exploitation of marine living resources for at least three years, if that ship has changed its flag after being found in breach of international conservation measures.

Waste of money

The 'Oriental Blooper' is currently docked in Shimonoseki, Japan, the home port of the whaling fleet, which is due to depart on its so-called scientific whale hunt in the next few weeks. In addition to the millions of taxpayer yen spent subsidising the whaling operation; the Japanese government has this year added an extra 800 million yen (US$8 million) for a coastguard ship to act as so-called "protection" for the fleet.

Tokyo Two face ten years

Meanwhile, two of our activists, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, are being prosecuted in Japan and are facing up to ten years in jail, for exposing an embezzlement scandal at the heart of the whaling programme. Their arrest was clearly a politically motivatedattempt to stifle opposition to the whaling programme. We're demanding that the chargesagainst them be dropped immediately -- along with the entirewhaling programme.

Vast amounts of taxpayers' money is being spent to defend the indefensible and militarise a hunt of endangered whales inside an internationally designated whale sanctuary, for a programme that is neither scientifically nor economically credible.

It's time for Japanese taxpayers to wake up to the full scale of illegality and corruption in the whaling programme, and to ask why whales continue to die for nothing more than to line the pockets of a few Japanese government bureaucrats.

Take Action

Whales are threatened by overfishing, pollution and climate change in addition to whaling. No-take marine reserves will give them the protection they so urgently need. Join the call for a global network of marine reserve including a fully protected Southern Ocean.

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