Whaling Fleet leaving Southern Ocean

Feature story - 24 February, 2007
24 February - 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 Nisshin Maru and friends.

At around 17:30 today, the expedition leader of the Japanese government's whaling fleet radioed, informing us that the Nisshin Maru plans to start sailing in threehours. He also said that the whole fleet was currently beingre-fuelled, in preparation for departure.

Spinning around: lack of transparency

Japanese government officials in Tokyo - and their PR spindoctorin New Zealand have continually trivialised the extent ofwhat has truly been a serious situation  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!  According to Japanese press, they also failed to inform the family of 27 year old crewman Kazutaka Makita that he had died in the fire - his family was left to find out through media reports.  This lack of transparency is one of the reasons we don't believe their rhetoric about "sustainable" whaling.

Unacceptable risk

If the Japanese government insists bringing its whaling fleet intothe Southern Ocean, it's not only the whale populations that arethreatened - Antarctica and the marine environment are also at risk. 

The Japanese whaling fleet causes unacceptable risk to the environmentand marine life. This is the Nisshin Maru's second fire - the first was in 1998. The Oriental Bluebird, which was tied alongside the factory ship for the last nine days, is a tanker flying a Panamanian flag of convenience.It's currently re-fuelling the whaling fleet, none of the which are iceclass (unlike the Esperanza) - despite routinely operating in icyconditions.

The Japanese government does not file anenvironmental impact assessment for the whaling fleet's operations inAntarctica; while there is no legal obligation to do so, Japan is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty. The Japanese government does havean obligation to follow the spirit of this international agreement andtheir whaling operation shatters both the spirit and intent of theTreaty.

Antarctic treaty

Antarctica is a global commons, and the responsibility of all governments to protect for the good of humanity. The Antarctic Treaty System's stated objective is this:

"in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shallcontinue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shallnot become the scene or object of international discord."

We're calling on all signatories to the Antarctic Treaty and members of the International Whaling Commissionto get some serious high-level political work done to make sure this isthe last season that any whaling fleet comes to Antarctica.

What next?

Atthis stage, if the fleet simply sails north out of here, we'll stickwith them, and keeping offering assistance. If they don't leave, youcan bet we'll be right there, taking peaceful direction action to stopthem killing whales.

Hopefully, 2007 is the last time a whaling ship ever enters the Southern Ocean. This expedition was only one part of our campaign to ending whaling. We have a broad campaign that focuses in Japan, because that is where the decision to end Antarctic whaling will ultimately come, we are pressuring politicians at the highest level to act rather than talk at the coming International Whaling Commission meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, and we are mobilizing support worldwide to bring an end to whaling.

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