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Japanese whalers anticipate confrontation with activists in Antarctic Ocean

December 10, 2008 | 11:01 am

Crew on Japanese ship Yushin Maru 2 spray anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society last January. Two of the activists boarded the vessel, causing the whalers to halt the hunt.

Yesterday the dolphin slaughter controversy, today the whale slaughter controversy.

As many know, Japan still hunts whales and uses a loophole in the 1986 global whaling moratorium that allows whales to be killed for research purposes. Japan hunts whales annually, saying it's for research (nobody believes it) and part of the country's culture. Its fleet is currently bound for the Antarctic Ocean intent on killing hundreds of whales.

As many also know, anti-whaling activists annually try to disrupt the hunt and a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel is currently en route to do just that.

The latest news: Japan's fisheries agency and justice ministry have announced that anyone forcibly trying to disrupt the hunt will be detained by the whalers and handed over to the Japanese Coast Guard.

Whale enthusiasts may recall that last January, two activists boarded a Japanese whaling vessel and prompted a two-day standoff before they were turned over to an Australian customs ship. Australia and New Zealand have spoken out against the hunts, largely because whale-watching is a vital industry in those countries and killing whales that frequent their waters is bad for business.

Whale meat is sold throughout Japan, but is increasingly unpopular among the country's younger generation. Yet the hunts continue and Westerners, Japan has implied, should not be insensitive to its rich whaling culture.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Crew on Japanese ship Yushin Maru 2 spray anti-whaling activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society last January. Two of the activists boarded the vessel, causing the whalers to halt the hunt. Credit: Institute of Cetacean Research

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