Esperanza refuels in Sydney: Howard heads to Japan

Feature story - March 9, 2007
After 42 days at sea the Greenpeace ship Esperanza arrived in Sydney this morning. It will spend 48 hours re-supplying and then sail directly for Japan.

The MV Esperanza arrives in Sydney to refuel.

The crew of the Esperanza spent over a week on stand-by to assist the fire-disabled whaling factory ship, Nisshin Maru in the Ross Sea in Antarctica last month. They then escorted the entire whaling fleet out of Antarctic waters.

The whole incident has generated a new debate in Japan, which is why we've decided to send the ship there.

"While the Esperanza was with the disabled fleet we generated a level of debate on this issue in Japan that has been unprecedented, questioning the validity of the government whaling programme. However, it has become obvious that the Japanese government wants to give the incident as low a profile as possible," says Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan whales campaign coordinator.

This year, a fire onboard whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, threatened the unique environment of the Ross Sea and the largest adelie penguin rookery in the world. The incident threatened an unprecedented environmental disaster.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency has stated that it will go back to the Southern Ocean next year and hunt 50 of Australia's beloved humpbacks, in addition to over 900 minke and fin whales. It is time for the John Howard to demand that Japan never again hunts whales in the Southern Ocean.

Japanese opinion

In Japan, people are starting to question the wisdom of the government's whaling program. Reports in Japanese media have been unprecedented in their even-handed, and even positive, portrayals of our campaign to end commercial whaling. The message is getting through that the whale hunt damages Japan's credibility, wastes millions in taxpayer's money and puts lives at risk. People are deciding that it's okay to love Japan and hate whaling.

Greenpeace Japan has invited representatives of the Fisheries Agency of Japan and the Institute for Cetacean Research on board the Esperanza when she arrives in Tokyo. We will also continue dialogue with the Japanese people this year through the Whale Love Wagon website www.whalelove.jp

Next stop: International Whaling Commission

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is the world's authoritative body on whaling. For years now, the Japanese government has used diplomatic pressure and a vote buying program to stack the IWC with pro-whaling allies, threatening to leave the IWC if it doesn't get its way.

Last year, the whaling faction showed it could muster a narrow majority at the IWC. This year, in May, the IWC will meet in Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone who cares about the future of whales in our oceans should help prepare for this meeting by taking action for whales.

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