Japan ‘to suspend whaling’ but is hunt over for good?
Japanese fisheries agency says factory ship needs repairs and whaling fleet might therefore not set sail
JAPAN is considering suspending whaling operations this year because the giant factory ship it uses to process the carcasses of the cetaceans it catches in the Antarctic is in need of a refit.
The speculation is based on a report in the respected Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun, which quotes the country’s fisheries agency. The agency refused to confirm the report to Australia’s ABC. However, it did admit the 18,000 tonne ‘mothership’ the Nisshin Maru needs repairs. The seriousness of the refit will be determined at a meeting later this week.
Should the Japanese fleet, which normally consists of the Nisshin Maru, three harpoon ships and a security vessel, fail to put to sea in November, it will bring to an abrupt end the so-called ‘whale wars’.
The phrase has become synonymous with the annual game of cat-and-mouse played out every summer in the Southern Ocean between the Japanese and the environmental group Sea Shepherd.
As The Week reported last week, Sea Shepherd was this year planning to put to sea with four vessels, two helicopters and four surveillance drones. The organisation’s tactics are to harry the Japanese fleet, prevent them from taking whales and ensure their trip is as expensive as possible.
Today's news has sparked speculation that this could be the end for the Japanese whale hunt, which has continued, despite an international moratorium on whaling, under the auspices of 'scientific research'. There have been consistent reports in the media in recent years that the Japanese government is tiring of funding its whaling fleet, which brings tonnes of whale meat ashore every year that is not wanted by the general populace.
Rachel Siewert, a Senator for the Australian Green Party, says this could be it for the unpopular policy. "There's been an ongoing debate in Japan about the expense of it," she told ABC. "There's growing resistance in Japan to whaling as well. So I think it's a collection of circumstances and maybe this was the final nail was the aging factory ship."
However, the Japanese fisheries agency is presenting the repairs as a temporary setback. It put out a statement later saying the reason it wants to carry out the refit is so that the Nisshin Maru can continue whaling for another decade.