Sunday 04 January 2009

Japanese 2009 Antarctic whale hunt is under way

The beginning of the new year finds the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean, intent on killing 850 (± 10%) Antarctic minke whales and 50 fin whales.

The scientific whaling permit issued to the fleet by the Japanese Government does not include humpback whales.  Under the Japanese Antarctic whaling program, JARPA II, 50 humpbacks were intended to be harpooned annually, commencing last season.  Following strong international protests, the humpback 'research' has been suspended.  However a spokesman for Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) confirmed recently that humpbacks "could be back in the Japanese research program next year".

Anti-whaling activist organization the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is also in the Southern Ocean and has already engaged the whalers.  At least one collision has occurred, with each party blaming the other.  No injuries have been reported.

The ICR has called on the Australian Government to close its ports to Sea Shepherd vessels following what it refers to as "criminal acts at sea".  In a media release the ICR Director General Minoru Morimoto called Sea Shepherd "a terrorist vigilante group that is operating outside of the confines of international maritime law".

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd is going it alone in the Southern Ocean this year, with Greenpeace focusing its anti-whaling campaign efforts on a whale meat scandal in Japan, and the Australian Government having unfortunately decided not to send a ship this year to observe Japan's activities, as it did in 2008.

On New Year's day, following two weeks of pursuit and confrontation, Sea Shepherd founder and President Paul Watson had to disengage and sail back to shore to refuel the vessel.  Watson intends to turn his ship around as quickly as possible and seek out the Japanese whaling fleet once more.


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