Whaling fleet departs Japan for Antarctic hunt

Feature story - 15 November, 2006
This year the Japanese fleet will again try to kill 935 minke and 10 fin whales off the coast of Antarctica in what the whalers are calling a "feasibility study" for expanded "research" whaling.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency whaling fleet leaves Shimonoseki, Japan bound for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with plans to harpoon 935 minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales.

Earlier this year, Japan's whalers announced to the International Whaling Commission meeting that its previous "feasibility study" was a "complete success".

"If the last feasibility study was so successful, then why do they need another one?" said John Frizell, Greenpeace International Ocean Campaigner.  "This programme is just a flimsy excuse to push for a resumption of commercial whaling, despite having no market needs in Japan."

Not really about science

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed to a moratorium on commercial whaling that came into effect in 1986.  In 1987, Japan began its lethal "research" programme, and continues to sell the result of this "research" in shops and restaurants.

"To claim this whaling program is research is an insult to science and to the Japanese people," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan Oceans Campaign Project Manager.

Sato went on to explain, "This 'research' project is being pursued by small numbers of politicians and bureaucrats simply to maintain their vested interests in one of the most outdated industries in Japan and at the expenses of Japanese taxpayers' money".

Little support in Japan, strong opposition outside of it

An opinion poll in Japan carried out in June 2006 by the Gallup affiliate, the Nippon Research Centre, showed that 95% of Japanese never or rarely eat whale meat and more than 70 percent of Japanese do NOT support whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Lack of support within Japan is mirrored by widespread condemnation from the world community.  

"This is not science - these are commercial numbers of whales," Australia's Environment Minister Ian Campbell was recently quoted as saying. "This is a shameless charade, because despite the slaughter of hundreds of whales by Japan, we have yet to see any viable scientific results."

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