Well, it only took a few hours from when the Japanese newspaper report was released, but the Japanese Fisheries Agency has said despite the need for its main ship, the Nisshin Maru, to be overhauled, this year’s whale hunt will continue. Not only will the Southern Ocean hunt not be called off this year, as was originally thought this morning, but the 8,000-ton ship’s refitting will allow Japan to get another decade’s worth of service from it. I can hear Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd starting their boats’ engines now.
The original thought was the aging Nisshin Maru’s repairs would take several months, preventing it from making the late-November voyage. But it looks like the Fisheries Agency won’t be having any of that, as official Tatsuya Nakaoku said this afternoon that Japan’s “scientific whale research” is too important, and the ship will be refitted in time for this season’s hunt. This would’ve been the first in 25 years that a whale hunt wasn’t held by Japan, but Nakaoku adds that the agency is working with shipbuilders now on how long repairs will take, but there is no chance operations will be cancelled this year. I guess we now know why the government took $30 million from the earthquake and tsunami recovery fund and gave it to the whaling industry.
Once the idea of calling off this year’s hunt was put on the table, politicians immediately voiced their opposition out fear that canceling for even one year would make Japan look “weak” in the face of the large international condemnation. In August, environment activist group Sea Shepherd and its leader, Paul Watson (currently a fugitive), declared their “Operation Zero Tolerance” would not allow Japan to kill a single whale this year. Advocates claim whale hunting is a part of Japan’s cultural heritage, despite the fact that the mass population of Japan doesn’t eat whale meat, and the little sales that do occur have been dropping significantly in recent years.[via The Australian]