Throwing ships aground, tsunami left Japanese coastal whaling high & dry

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
AYUKAWAHAMA–“There was Sea Shepherd, and now this,”
retired whaler Shinobu Ankai told Martin Fackler and Makiko Inoue of
The New York Times. “Whaling is finished,” Ankai assessed.
“This could be the final blow to whaling here,” agreed
fellow retired whaler Makoto Takeda.
‘”Whaling is impossible. Reviving it may take 20 to 30
years,” former whaling vessel stoker Yoshiya Endo told Japan Times
earlier.


Believed to have been seeking a face-saving way to end costly
subsidies for the whaling industry, the Japanese government may
allow the March 11, 2011 tsunami to terminate whaling by simply not
making a priority of rebuilding damaged port facilities and
refloating coastal whaling vessels.
The Japanese “research whaling” fleet, already diminished by
budget cuts from seven ships in 2009-2010 to just four in 2010-2011,
was en route back to port in the Miyagi area when the March 11, 2011
tsunami hit, after ending the Antarctic “research” whaling season
early because of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society pursuit.
The flagship, the factory ship Nisshin Maru, was on March
21 pressed into service delivering disaster relief to northeastern
Japan.
But most Japanese whaling is done within Japanese territorial
waters. The coastal whaling industry did not weather the tsunami
well.
“One of four communities in Japan that have continued to hunt
and eat whales in defiance of international opposition, Ayukawahama
was already down to a single operating company, Ayukawa Whaling,”
wrote Shingo Ito of Agence France-Presse. “The March 11 tsunami
took most of Ayukawahama with it, destroying 80% of the houses and
leaving 400 of its 1,400 residents unaccounted for. The wave
shattered Ayukawa Whaling’s storage facility and carried its fleet of
three whaling ships hundreds of meters inland, where they lie
grounded and impotent.”
All 28 employees of Ayukawa Whaling survived, but were laid
off when the company was unable to get the whaling vessels back into
the water in time to hunt minke whales during the April 201l coastal
whaling season.
“At the offices of Ayukawa Whaling,” wrote Fackler of The
New York Times, “a beached fishing boat and crumpled fire truck lay
on the raised platform where whales were hoisted ashore to be
butchered. The company’s three boats, which had been sucked out to
sea, washed up miles down the coast with remarkably little damage,”
Fackler said, but Ayukawa Whaling chair Minoru Ito told Fackler that
the company could not afford to refloat the vessels without
government help.
Ito hoped to have the fleet back in the water in time to
participate in the fall whaling season off the northern island of
Hokkaido. Unknown, however, is whether the Japanese government
will consider enabling the dying industry to continue to be a
post-tsunami priority.
An indication of evolving public attitudes came meanwhile
from Sendai. Despite the long history of whales, dolphins, and
porpoises having been eaten in Japan, despite the Sendai region
being the hub of the Japanese whaling industry, and despite a severe
post-tsunami food shortage, there was no reported consideration of
eating a three-foot baby finless porpoise who was discovered in a
rice paddy on March 22, more than a mile from shore.
Instead, the people who found the porpoise called Takashi
Wegatsuma, whose Dogwood pet shop in Sendai had become an ad hoc
shelter for the pets of displaced people. Wegatsuma returned the
porpoise to the sea.

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