A total of four Japanese whaling vessels left Japanese ports on Friday bound for the Southern Ocean on their annual hunt of minke whales and other large cetaceans in the seas around Antarctica.
According to Kyodo News, three whaling ships left the western port of Shimonoseki, while campaigning group Greenpeace said the mother ship had left another port in the west of Japan.
Another campaigning group, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) says that, this year, the Japanese whaling fleet will meet the strongest opposition yet to its annual hunt for cetaceans. Sea Shepherd can now deploy four vessels in its campaign to counter the hunting of whales, dolphins and other marine mammal species. As reported in Digital Journal last month, SSCS recently took delivery of a new ship to beef up what will be their ninth campaign against whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Ironically, the new campaign vessel, the SSS Sam Simon, is a former Japanese government ship. It will join SSCS 2012 anti-whaling campaign ‘Zero tolerance’ recently highlighted in Digital Journal.
The New Zealand Herald, quotes Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson as saying,
“Japan's behaviour on this must stop. We have taken every action that is possible to take. We are not about to declare war on Japan. We're going to do everything that we can to prevent them from killing a single whale. We're not out here to hurt anybody. We're here to just uphold international conservation law."
"The mother ship, Nisshin Maru, left Innoshima today," said Greenpeace Japan's executive director Junichi Sato, according to Australian daily, The Telegraph. "Today was virtually the last day when they could leave for the Antarctic Sea," he said. According to the Japanese Fisheries Agency, the whaling fleet plans to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through to March 2013.
There had been hopes that 2012-13 would see an end to the Japanese hunt for whales in the Southern Ocean after SSCS’ campaign last year forced Japan to cancel its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic. According to Care2, the 2011 whale hunt had been a huge failure, primarily as a result of SSCS’ campaign of harassment of the whalers by deploying three Sea Shepherd anti-whaling vessels, the Bob Barker, the Steve Irwin, and the Gojira.
Australian Government: Whaling for scientific purposes “a joke”
The resumption of whaling once more in the 2012 season was slammed by the Australian government. CBS News quotes Australian environment minister Tony Burke as saying the Japanese claim that it was whaling for scientific purposes was “a joke.”
Burke told reporters in Sydney on Saturday, "In the interim it is open to Japan any day of the year to take the same action that the rest of the world has taken and that is to observe a moratorium in the Southern Ocean. That is to accept that commercial whaling is wrong and 'scientific whaling' is a joke. We cannot continue to have a situation where everybody knows it's nothing to do with science and yet, with a nod and a wink, Japanese fleets travel from one side of the globe to the other to engage in this, and to break the moratorium year after year."
In Australia there is some cross party support for an outright ban on whaling. If whaling continues next year, the opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has promised to go further raising the possibility that environmental campaigners could be joined by an Australian customs vessel to monitor whale hunting if his Liberal Party coalition should gain office in the 2013 federal election.
Although the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, Japan, Norway and Japan have continued to hunt large cetaceans under the ‘scientific research’ exemption provided in the whaling ban. Under this exemption, Japan is permitted to kill around 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean every year. Campaign groups such as Greenpeace and SSCS claim there is neither scientific nor economic justification for such an exemption. The economic argument against dolphin meat in particular was lambasted in a recent Op-ed piece Digital Journal entitled ‘Contrasts in cetacean thinking, how wide is that valley?’