Whalers on the move

Feature story - 24 February, 2007
The Japanese Government whaling fleet is finally leaving the Southern Ocean, according to their expedition leader. The Nisshin Maru, disabled for nine days by fire, is moving under her own power. We hope this is the last time the fleet threatens both the whales and the pristine Antarctic environment.

The Esperanza (foreground) and the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru, disabled by a recent fire.

Update 28 February

This just in from the Japanese Government's whaling spokespersons in Tokyo:

The Institute of Cetacean Research, in conjunction with Kyodo Senpaku and the Government of Japan, said today the Antarctic whale research program for the 2006/2007 austral summer season will be cut short as a result of a fire aboard the research mother vessel, the Nisshin Maru.

We've expected this for some time.  We urge you to join us in working to ensure the Nisshin Maru never returns to the whaling grounds.

At around 17:30 New Zealand time on Saturday, the expedition leader of the Japanese government's whaling fleet radioed, informing us that the Nisshin Maru - disabled nine days previously by fire - planned to start sailing in three hours. He also said that the whole fleet was currently being re-fuelled, in preparation for departure.

The Esperanza  arrived at the location in the Ross Sea at about 07.00 (New Zealand daylight time) on the 17th of February. Two ships - the re-supply and re-fuelling vessel Oriental Bluebird and one of the harpoon, or catcher boats  - were tied either side of the Nisshin Maru.  In the time since then, Greenpeace has offered to tow the vessel out of the pristine Antarctic environment, while providing assistance in the form of ice surveys and translation for the US Coast Guard.

That the whalers are finally on the move is a relief - after nine long days of risk to the pristine Antarctic environment. We're ready to escort the fleet out of Antarcticwaters.

We're pretty unimpressed with how Japanese government officials in Tokyo - and their PR spin doctorin New Zealand - have done their best to trivialise the extent ofa serious situation here in the Ross Sea. Since thefire last Thursday, they've failed to show transparency - either withthe rescue authorities or other governments, about the extent of thefire, as well as the risks both to human life and the Antarcticenvironment. They even publicly stated - a little too quickly - thatthey hoped to just keep on whaling!

If the Japanese government insists bringing the whaling fleet intothe Southern Ocean, it's not only the whale populations that arethreatened - Antarctica and the marine environment are also at risk. Atthis stage, if the fleet simply sails north out of here, we'll stickwith them, and keep offering assistance. If they don't leave, youcan bet we'll be right there, taking peaceful direct action to stopthem killing whales.

Read more at the weblog.

I-GO Supporter idea #5262: Stop Japan's vote buying

Participate in "Madmermaids" campaign idea to name and shame countries taking bribes from Japan in exchange for whaling votes. Create your own campaign at the I-GO site.

Live webcam

See what the Esperanza sees with our live webcam from the bow of the ship.