Final voyage of the Japanese whaling fleet?

Press release - 19 November, 2009
Following a week of potentially crippling budgetary reviews and a high-profile visit from US President Barack Obama to Japan, shortly after 10am today the so-called 'scientific' whaling fleet crept out of port, as Greenpeace called for today's departure to be the programme's last.

Earlier, the environmental group unveiled a 'Yes We Can' banner in front of the factory ship Nisshin Maru, calling on new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and the visiting US President Barack Obama to work together to end whaling.

In their election campaigns, both leaders signalled that there is no future in whaling. The Obama administration is publicly opposed to 'scientific' whaling, while Hatoyama promised to wipe out bureaucratic corruption and the waste of taxpayer money, of which the whaling industry is a prime example.

This year the fleet's Antarctic hunt will be subsidised by 795 million yen ($8.8 million US dollars) of taxpayer money. However, the programme already operates at a loss due to lack of demand for whale meat - the wholesale price of whale meat has just been lowered for the second time this year in an effort to stimulate the low demand - and programme costs are set to increase. (1, 2)

"Japanese taxpayers' money is being squandered on life-support for a whaling programme that produces virtually nothing of value," said Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan. "The government should switch off the industry's respirator."

Elimination of subsidies to the programme could also prove to be vindication for Greenpeace activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, who were arrested in 2008 and put on trial for intercepting a box of whale meat and exposing an embezzlement ring within the whaling programme. While the resulting scandal made international headlines, the official investigation was suspiciously dropped, and Sato and Suzuki were arrested and put on trial. (3)

"With well over 9,000 minke whales killed in 22 years and no useful data produced, Japan's so-called 'research' in the Antarctic is an international embarrassment," concluded Hoshikawa.

Greenpeace is an independent, global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment, and to promote peace.

Other contacts: Greg McNevin - Greenpeace International Communications, +31 (0) 6 2900 1152, Kyoko Murakami - Greenpeace Japan Communications, +81 (0) 80 5008 3048,

VVPR info: Photos of the factory ship with the 'Yes we can' banner are available. Please contact:Greenpeace International picture desk, Amsterdam: +31 (0)20 718 2470

Notes: (1) The International Maritime Organisation intends to ban use of heavy fuel oil in the Antarctic from 2011 onwards which would force the factory ship, which currently uses heavy fuel oil, to use the more expensive lighter grades. A November 6, 2009 article in the Nikkei Shinbun entitled: "Whale meat prices down by up to 17%" reported that the wholesale selling price of whale meat had been reduced as of that day for the second time in 2009. The article quoted the Institute of Cetacean Research, which manages the hunt and markets the whale meat produced, as saying its aim is to "produce at the cheapest price possible, in order to increase the demand".(3) Greenpeace began an investigation into whistleblower allegations that organised whale meat embezzlement was being conducted by crew inside Japan's so-called "scientific" whaling programme, which is funded by Japanese taxpayers. The informer was previously involved in the whaling programme, and following his advice Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki began an investigation, eventually discovering firm evidence that cardboard boxes containing whale meat were being secretly shipped to the homes of whaling fleet crew - and then sold for personal profit. Junichi delivered a box of this whale meat to the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office in May 2008, and filed a report of embezzlement. However, the embezzlement investigation was dropped on June 20 - the same day that both men were arrested and then held for 26 days before being charged with theft and trespass.

Exp. contact date: 2010-02-01 00:00:00