Whalers spend winter hiding

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2008:
HOBART, TOKYO–Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captain
Paul Watson on March 2, 2008 reported that the crew of the Sea
Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin had pitched two dozen bottles of rancid
butter onto deck of the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshiin Maru
in Porpoise Bay, off Antarctica.
The stink bomb attack came toward the end of a winter-long
campaign that saw Sea Shepherds, joined at times by Greenpeace and
the Australian coast guard, stalking the Nisshin Maru since the
Steve Irwin sailed from Melbourne on December 5, 2007. The Nisshin
Maru, four whale-catching vessels, and the supply ship Oriental
Bluebird spent most of the winter trying to elude observation,
rather than killing whales. The Japanese coast guard vessel
Fukuyoshi Maru #68 had shadowed the Steve Irwin since January 15,
but was ultimately not able to keep the Sea Shepherds away from the
Nisshin Maru.

Watson believed the whalers would return to Japan with less
than half of their self-assigned quota of 935 minke whales and 50 fin
whales. The Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research had also
planned to kill up to 50 endangered humpback whales, but dropped
this idea due to global opposition.
“Leap year gave us an extra day this month,” Watson e-mailed
at the end of February 2008, “but despite that, we made it to the
end of February without any whales being killed for the last six
days. We are chasing the Japanese in circles and there does not seem
to be any rhyme or reason to what they are doing. They are wasting
fuel and not catching any whales.”
But perhaps the Japanese fleet had more interest in just
being there than in actually killing whales.
“Red ink runs like blood in the ledgers of the whalers,”
observed Sydney Morning Herald reporter Andrew Darby. “In the two
remaining legal commercial whaling countries, Iceland last year shut
down the business for lack of whale meat buyers and Norway closed the
season with a minke whale quota half met,” although the Norwegian
self-designated whaling quota for 2008 remains at the 2007 level of
1,052 whales.
Asahi Shimbun reporter Kenji Oya-mada explained to Japanese
readers who have historically seen little criticism of whaling that
the major Japanese fishing conglomerates abandoned the whaling
industry in 2006. The collectively operated whaling fleet was
transferred to the Institute of Cetacean Research, a government
agency which receives an annual subsidy of about a billion yen. In
fiscal 2006 the ICN also received a billion yen loan from the
Overseas Fishery Cooperation Foundation, a government agency, and
has had trouble making the payments.
“Yet the ICR commissioned a new multibillion-yen catcher ship
for the present season, the third in a decade,” noted Darby.
Joji Morashita, the Japanese fisheries agency’s chief
negotiator on whaling, “said that if the principle of treating
wildlife as a sustainable resource was compromised, it would
infringe Japan’s right to exploit other fish and animal products,”
summarized Darby. “Or as the business daily Shukan Toyo Keizai was
told, ‘If we give an inch on whaling, we will also have to back
down on tuna,'” another issue involving depleted species.
“The Nisshin Maru is 21 years old, has caught fire twice,
has killed three seamen in work accidents, and does not have the
capacity to haul up the bigger whales, or store the whole season’s
catch,” Darby continued. “Within the next few years the fisheries
agency will have to decide whether to build a costly replacement.”
Surveying 2,082 Japanese citizens, the Asahi Shimbun
reported 65% support whaling, and that 56% approve of eating whale
meat, including nearly 80% of men older than 40. However, 58% of
Japanese women in their twenties oppose eating whales. Japanese
whale meat consumption has fallen to 30 grams per person per year,
less than an eighth of the volume of 25 years ago.
An Internet survey done by the Nippon Research Centre for
Greenpeace International found that 31% of the 1,051 respondents
favor whaling, down 4% from 2006. About 25% opposed whaling, with
44% undecided. Only 5% acknowledged eating whale meat as often as
Eighty-five percent were unaware that Japan hunts whales
within the Southern Ocean Sanctuary designated by the International
Whaling Commission.
“Last month the Institute for Cetacean Research dumped 10
tons of unsold whale meat into a primary school lunch program,”
charged Watson, “trying to get children to develop a taste for whale
flesh and blubber despite the high mercury content in it. Yokohama
children have not eaten whale meat as part of school lunches in 26
years. The ICR still has over 3,000 tons of unsold whale meat left
from last year’s hunt.”
Japanese International Whaling Commission delegation chair
Yoshimasa Hayashi told media that Japan would seriously consider
ending high seas whaling if allowed to expand coastal whaling.
“There is a chance of an agreement,” Hayashi said. “It will depend
largely on U.S. leadership to bridge the differences at the IWC.”
Said Watson, “Although we would welcome an end to whaling in
the Southern Ocean, we are opposed to killing whales anywhere, by
anyone, for any reason.”


The Sea Shepherd pursuit of the Nisshin Maru was interrupted
in early February by a refueling stop at Melbourne. Sixteen
volunteer crew members left the Steve Irwin of February 2, after two
months at sea, replaced by 19 others. Eleven of the original crew
remained aboard for the second voyage, commenced on Valentine’s Day.
As the Steve Irwin ran low on fuel toward the end of the
first voyage, crew members Benjamin Potts, 28, of Australia, and
Giles Lane, 35, of Britain, on January 15 boarded the
whale-catcher Yushin Maru #2 with a letter asking the captain to stop
whaling. Held aboard the Yushin Maru for three days, initially tied
to a radar mast, Potts and Lane were eventually transferred to the
Australian Customs patrol vessel Oceanic Viking and returned to the
Steve Irwin.
The Steve Irwin then approached another Japanese ship closely
enough to throw stink bombs on the deck.
“Pottsy and Giles weren’t just sitting on their behinds on
the Yushin Maru #2,” Watson later told the Melbourne Age. “We have a
transmitter aboard the ship,” Watson said, with a battery good for
a year, “and the whalers are not going to find it.”
The Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru had meanwhile
fled into the southern Indian Ocean, trying to escape the Greenpeace
vessel Esperanza, but turned back to refuel the Yushin Maru #2 and
deployed water cannon against Greenpeace campaigners who approached
in speedboats.
While Japanese diplomats demanded that Australia prosecute
the Sea Shepherds, Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith held
talks in Tokyo just as Japan was reported to have resumed killing
whales in the Antarctic Ocean following a two-week halt under
pressure from environmental protesters.
“Australia very strongly believes that Japan should cease
whaling in the Southern Ocean. We are giving careful consideration
to the possibility of taking international legal action in respect of
this matter,” Smith said.
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, inaugurated in
December 2007, in January 2008 sent the Oceanic Viking on a
seven-week mission to gather evidence, after dispatching an A-319
surveillance plane to help the Oceanic Viking find the Japanese
whaling fleet.
The high seas confrontations somewhat upstaged a January 15
Australian Federal Court verdict that the ICR had violated Australian
law by killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Ruling in
response to a lawsuit brought by Humane Society International, the
global arm of the Humane Society of the U.S., the court ordered the
ICR to halt further whaling.
But the Australian government initially refused to release
any of the evidence gathered by the Oceanic Viking and two A-319
flights, sought by HSI for use in seeking enforcement orders. On
February 7, however, the Australian government released both video
and still photographs showing “whales being pursued, then shot with
harpoons tipped with explosives, thrashing about in bloodied
Antarctic waters before being winched aboard the Yushin Maru #2,”
and “a mother whale and calf bleeding and slung lifeless in the
slipway of a Japanese whaling vessel,” in the words of London Times
writer Paul Larter.
An ICR statement denied that the whales shown were a mother
and calf. “It is highly likely a mother and calf,” responded
Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre director Peter
Harrison. “They were caught together.” The smaller of the two,
Harrison noted, was “a very young whale, and it is highly unlikely
that she would be associated with anyone other than her mother.”
The Rudd government “is considering using its evidence in
either the Inter-national Court of Justice in The Hague or the
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea,” reported Shingo Ito
of Agence France-Presse.
“The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea could be
called upon to issue an injunction to stop the Japanese whalers in as
little as 14 days,” said International Fund for Animal Welfare
representative Tim Stephens.
“The graphic images on our television screens bring home the
reality of whale hunting. This shows that more than ever the
European Union needs to be united in opposing whaling,” said EU
environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.
The Greenpeace vessel Esperanza remained at sea pursuing the
whalers while the Steve Irwin refueled, and returned to Australia
one day after the Steve Irwin set forth again– an apparent
coincidence, as 30 years of hostility between Watson and Greenpeace
appeared to be undiminished. A Greenpeace cofounder, Watson founded
the Sea Shepherd Conserv-ation Society in 1977, after Greenpeace
rejected confrontational tactics against whalers and sealers, and
eventually withdrew categorical opposition to all whaling and sealing.
The Oceanic Viking returned to port on February 28. As well
as gathering evidence against Japanese whaling inside the Southern
Oceans Whale Sanctuary, the Oceanic Viking is believed to have
documented maritime poaching by two ships from other nations.
While seeking the Japanese whalers in January, the Sea
Shepherds reported finding a Namibian-flagged vessel, the Antalles
Reefer, illegally netting toothfish. “The vessel refused to give a
fishing permit number and threatened the Steve Irwin by reporting
that it was armed,” said a Sea Shepherd press release. “Captain
Paul Watson relayed the information to the Oceanic Viking.”

Korean whaling

Illegal whaling by South Koreans was exposed in mid-January,
when South Korean police seized more than 50 metric tons of frozen
minke whale meat from two warehouses in the southeastern port of
“Some 70 people including fishermen, distributors and
operators of 46 whale meat restaurants have been brought in for
questioning,” reported Agence France-Presse.
Explained Agence France-Presse, “Whale meat can be legally
sold in South Korea if the animals were caught by accident in fishing
nets. Fishers report accidentally snaring some 200 whales every
year,” but activists believe up to twice that many are actually

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