Whaling fleet prevented from killing whales

Feature story - 16 January, 2008
Following a 10-day search in Antarctic waters, the Greenpeace ship Esperanza confronted Japan’s whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary last week. After a high speed chase over hundreds of miles the factory ship Nisshin Maru was driven out of the hunting grounds. Without this ship, the rest of the fleet has been unable to hunt whales for the last 5 days. The Esperanza continues to follow the Nisshin Maru which is now heading south again.

The Japanese government whaling vessel Nisshin Maru flees from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

If they try to start whaling, the Esperanza's international crew of activists will take non-violent direct action to prevent the Japanese government's slaughter of nearly 1,000 whales, including 50 endangered fin whales.

Activists will drive inflatable boats between the whaler's harpoons and the whales while using high-powered water pumps to create a curtain of icy water, obscuring the harpooner's view. 

We will do nothing toharm or endanger the Japanese vessels or crew. We will,however, use all peaceful means at our disposal to stop thekilling of any more whales.

Update, January 18th: Whales have been safe from harpoons for 7 days now as the Esperanza,continues to keep the whaling fleet from killing whales. A second ship, The Yushin Maru 2, one of the harpoon-carrying "catcher boats" has also joined the Nisshin Maru and the Esperanza, hundreds of miles north of the whale hunting grounds.

Update, January 16th: No whales have been killed in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for 6 days! The Esperanza continues to shadow the Nisshin Maru as it heads south towards the hunting grounds.

Update, January 14th: The Nisshin Maru and the catcher boatYusshin Maru are currently outside the hunting grounds. Without the factory ship whaling cannot continue. The Esperanza continues to keep the Nisshin Maru in sight.

Here is Sara, on board the Ezsperanza, who will tell you more about finding  the whaling fleet:


The area in which the Japanese fleet are hunting has been designated as theSouthern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, designed to help whale populationsrecover after the devastating commercial whaling of the last century.Many countries were responsible for this collapse in whale populations.Most have since realised the tragic consequences of their actions andnow accept, support and promote whale conservation and a complete endto commercial whaling.

Modern scientific research does not require whales to die. In addition to confronting the whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, we are proving that nobody needs to fire exploding harpoons into whales and kill them for science. Our Great Whale Trail research programme, in collaboration with scientists from the Cook Islands Whale Research, Opération Cétacés (New Caledonia) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, includes satellite tracking, skin biopsy, and photoidentification of whales.  The programme has already yielded a vast amount of valuable information. But not a single harpoon needed to be fired. 

Scientific whaling is an expensive hoax-- with most of the results being stockpiled in commercial freezers or ending up in dog food.


Karli Thomas, theexpedition leader on the Esperanza spoke to the crew on of the NisshinMaru on the radio saying:

Ourvessel and crew are here in the Southern Ocean to condemn your hunt,which includes endangered species, and to insist that you return toport immediately.

We represent millions of peoplearound the world who want to see an end to whaling in the SouthernOcean Whale Sanctuary.

We join with the majority ofpeople in Japan who do not support whaling on the high seas.(...)

Your so-called scientific whaling is a hoax.Ithas been dismissed as useless by the International WhalingCommission"

Japan's research whaling benefits only a very few Japanese bureaucrats, and has cost  Japanese taxpayers billions of yen in subsidies.  It produces research nobody needs, and whale meat very few want.  It deserves to be exposed in Japanese society as a scandalous waste of money.

When the whaling fleet left its home port of Shimonoseki in November,the government of Japan confirmed the sole purpose behind its so-calledscience programme is to bring about a return to commercial whaling.

"TheJapanese people clearly do not support the whaling  that is beingcarried out in their name, and with their tax money", said JunichiSato, whales project leader for Greenpeace Japan. "It is time for PrimeMinister Fukuda to put an end to Japan's whaling scandal, and to recallthe fleet home to Japan."

Humpbacks safe -- for now

OnDecember 22nd, the Japanese government backed down in the face ofpressure from Greenpeace supporters, whale advocates, andconservation-minded governments, announcing that they would not hunt humpbacks this season.

Rather than reducing the number of whales being killed in the Southern Ocean it looks like the Government of Japan is going to kill a lot more. Plans are emerging for the construction of a new factory ship that will be even bigger than the Nisshin Maru and be able to go on killing thousands of whales over the decades to come. While our activists will be between the harpoons and the whales in the Southern Ocean in order to save hundreds of whales from being killed now, we are urging people to stop even more being killed in the future by writing to the Japanese Prime Minister. Over 12,000 letters have already been sent. We all need to act NOWto stop the hunt forever and make sure that not a single harpoon will be fired again in the Southern Ocean WhaleSanctuary.

For the latest, up-to-the-minute news, check out the Great Whale Trail expedition blog and the live Esperanza Webcams.