According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry of Japan, this year was a record low for the whaling fleet, with only 103 Antarctic minke whales and no fin whales caught for its “research whaling” program. Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi blames the “unforgivable sabotage” by activists, particularly by the militant environmentalist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
But what the Japanese government calls sabotage, Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, calls an “enormously successful” harassment campaign. The 48 day long whaling expedition was constantly interrupted by the activists, who were labeled “pirates” by a US judge earlier this year. They managed to hamper the hunt four times and made the fleet spend 21 days just avoiding the Sea Shepherd vessels. A collision between the vessels during a refuelling stop by the whaling fleet was the climax of the two groups’ constant sea chase, and prompted Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) to label their actions “malicious and unacceptable”.
Hayashi says that this year’s haul is the lowest in its history, ever since the annual campaign began in 1987. They were able to catch less than half of what they hauled in last year and was a far cry from their target of catching 1000 whales this year. He said that they will be seeking support from other countries so that they will be able to “conduct research whaling in a stable manner”. But the international community has mostly criticised the annual whale hunt and Japan’s constant flaunting of the loophole in the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan uses the captured whales as subjects in a study to prove that their populations can withstand commercial whaling but the mammals are later on sold as food. The whaling industry also defends the practice of eating whale, saying it is part of their culture and culinary tradition. Norway and Iceland are the only two other countries that openly hunt whales.
[ via MSN ]