Greenpeace ramps up whales campaign in Japan

Press release - November 4, 2008
Greenpeace announced today the next phase of its campaign to end lethal whaling by ramping up its activities in Japan.

Ending the political prosecution of two Greenpeace activists in Japan, Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki, the "Tokyo two", will become the central focus of a mass mobilisation campaign against the Japanese Government's whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whaling Sanctuary.

Greenpeace will not send a ship to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary this year.

Sato and Suzuki have been denied their liberty for 138 days, since exposing corruption within the annual so-called scientific research whaling programme last May. Early next year they will be put on trial. They face up to 10 years in jail for intercepting whale meat stolen by crew from the whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru. The activists were arrested on June 20th 2008 and spent 26 days in custody before being charged. (1)

Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan said: "After many expeditions to defend the whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Greenpeace has saved hundreds of whales. But, if we are to bring this hunt to an end, we have to bring change in Tokyo."

"Based on our 30 years of experience of campaigning against whaling, Greenpeace has decided that at this stage in the global campaign, our efforts need to focus on continuing to shift public opinion in Japan," said Karli Thomas, Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner. "Our research in Japan shows that over 70 per cent of Japanese people do not support high seas whaling, and ordinary Japanese people are starting to question the use of tax-payers money to support an outdated and globally unpopular industry." (2)

"Outside of Japan, in the coming months we will put the Japanese Government on trial by calling on whale defenders world-wide to become co-defendants with the Tokyo Two, and give evidence against the whaling programme." said Karli Thomas.

To date a quarter of a million people have called on Japan's prime minister to drop the charges and release the activists.(3) The launch will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December, and run through until the trial early in 2009.

This shift in the focus of the Greenpeace anti-whaling campaign follows many strategic successes, including:

•    Causing the de-flagging of the whaling fleet re-supply ship, the Oriental Bluebird last month, potentially cutting this years' hunt in half (4),

•    Pressuring seafood suppliers Gorton's, Sealord and parent company Nissui to withdraw financial support for the Japanese whaling industry, leaving them totally government funded since April 2006.

VVPR info: Suzette Jackson Greenpeace New Zealand communications manager 021 614 899

Notes: (1) Greenpeace investigation: Japan's stolen whale meat scandal, May 15 2008 – dossier available from: 2) Opinion poll on research whaling, conducted in Japan by Nippon Research Center Ltd, a member of Gallup International Association. February 2008 3) More than 250,000 Greenpeace supporters sent protest emails to the Japanese prime minister, asking him to release the activists. In addition, a joint statement of concern was issued to the prime minister by 35 international non-governmental organisations, which included Amnesty International, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Humane Society International. A motion to release the men was passed in the Australian parliament and questions were raised in the UK parliament. (4) Following actions at sea and pressure by Greenpeace, the Oriental Bluebird has been fined by the Panamanian Government and de-flagged after its involvement in the whaling programme was ruled illegal. The Japanese Government has ratified an international treaty which seeks to end the practice of 'flag hopping' to evade environmental law, therefore is duty-bound under international law not to use the vessel's services for at least three years. There are very few alternative vessels. It is estimated that the Oriental Bluebird is responsible for taking around 50 per cent of the whaling fleet's catch back to Japan, as well as refuelling the whaling fleet within the Antarctic Treaty area enabling them to remain at sea for around four months.