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Activists hail victory over Japan whaling

SYDNEY -- Militant conservationists Friday hailed Japan's decision to halt a controversial whaling mission and warned they were strong enough to stop the fleet again if it returns next year.

Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said Japan's shock withdrawal from hunting grounds was “great news” after his group's seven-year harassment campaign in icy seas off Antarctica.

“It's great news. We will however stay with the Japanese ships until they return north and make sure that they're out of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary,” Watson told AFP.

“Personally I don't trust them but I will take their word on this and we will follow them out. We're just not going to leave them until we know for sure that they're out of the Southern Ocean.”

Sea Shepherd has had a string of high-seas clashes with the whaling ships, which it tails and pelts with rancid butter stink bombs, while the Japanese have retaliated with water cannon and military-style sonic weapons.

Watson said his group, which has Hollywood support and includes Sean Penn and Pierce Brosnan among its advisors, had strengthened each year while the Japanese fleet had weakened.

“It's been seven very long years. Every year we've gotten stronger and now we're in a position where we have the means to shut them down. That's why they stopped: we physically have prevented them from killing whales,” he said.

“And if they come back next year we'll be stronger even more, and we'll be better equipped to stop them even more efficiently. So whether or not they come back next year I'm pretty confident we can keep them from killing whales down here.”

Tokyo suspended the whale hunt, which is hated by environmentalists but deeply embedded in Japanese culture, on Wednesday before calling it off on Friday, citing harassment by Sea Shepherd.

Australia last year launched legal action at the International Court of Justice seeking to close a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium, which lets Japan kill hundreds of whales a year for research purposes.

The hunt was called off a year after Sea Shepherd's futuristic “Ady Gil” superboat was scythed in two during a bitter clash. Its captain was handed a suspended jail term in Tokyo after subsequently boarding a Japanese ship.

“Our tactics didn't change but we had three vessels down here, a new helicopter, better equipment, (and we were) better funded,” Watson said.

February 19, 2011    james38lon@
If Japan is worried about its cultural traditions, then why are they complaining about not being about to use the Southern Sanctuary?

Japanese fishermen don't use the Antarctic for fishing in!...it's a rubbish excuse to slaughter whales, inside a sanctuary, on the other side of the planet. Especially when all the countries around it are completely opposed to it being done in their neighborhood waters

All the arguments about killing intelligent creatures is immaterial, they should fish in their own waters, and if the problem is there are no whales around Japan, then there's no traditional hunting grounds left...they've killed them all, and demonstrates they problem they are causing.
February 20, 2011    jon@
Although I am thankful for the end of the Japanese 2011 whaling season by Watson and his merry men (and women!), it is with prudence.

Although it was done with great effort by the Sea Shepherd, what we often miss is what lies beneath the retreat. It just seemed “too easy”. Obviously the Japanese did not want a full-scale situation. But to retreat may signal other plans. Such as getting agreements in with the U.S. to allow the hunting of gray whales. Keep in mind that the US Marine & Wildlife will not approve the gray whales to be placed on the endangered species list, even with suggestions by creditable research institutions.

But recent comments found in various press reports in different newspapers around the world, suggest that gray whale populations are “on the increase” and also being that the case, “gray whale populations may not be sustained in the ocean due to their recent growth”.

Hmmm. Let me see... Over one hundred years ago, gray whale populations were in the hundreds of thousands. Now, numbering less than 20,000 (not a true count - probably much lower) the same creatures may be “too much” for our oceans?

Enter the Japanese. There are already plans afoot to move their hunt to the north of their country and in their own “international waters”. And with the sanction/blessing of the U.S. government that grays have “saturated” the ocean, I am concerned by recent press that this is but a “set-up” to hunt more whales.

And although your report is quite well done, in 1996 Japan was recorded with 1600 tons of frozen whale meat. Now, in 2011, 6,000 tons of frozen whale meat sit in Japanese food lockers! You report 4,800 tons, but it is 6,000 TONS!!!

Japanese officials are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get this meat distributed into their masses, when in fact less that 1 1/2% of the culture eat whale meat! They have tried making flavored hamburgers and hot dogs, pushing whale meat into parochial school lunches, etc.

I wonder what is next.
February 24, 2011    elumpen@
Whale hunting isn't a Japanese tradition. When Japan was occupied by the US after WW2 and had an American governor installed to run the country, he initiated whale-hunting to provide an easy meat supply.

Sounds like they've been so busy rewriting history they've even managed to snip that bit out. You would think they would be very happy to drop this reminder of the lowest point in modern Japanese history.
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