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Japanese whalers fall short of quota, to delight of marine mammal lovers

April 14, 2009 |  1:11 pm

Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin collides with the stern of a Japanese harpoon whaling ship in the Antarctic.

Whale watchers and marine mammal enthusiasts around the world might be pleased to learn that Japan fell substantially short of its minke whale hunt quota, thanks largely to disruptive efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society earlier this season in the Antarctic region.

Three vessels from the whaling fleet returned home this week and reported a final tally of 679 minke whales and one fin whale for a five-month effort, much of which was spent in clashes with the crew of the Steve Irwin, of the Sea Shepherd fleet.

Japan's goal had been to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. Shigeki Takaya, a fisheries agency spokesman, told the Associated Press: "This season's catch was reduced as a result of the interference by protesters."

Japan's annual whale hunt draws international criticism and has been condemned by Australia, which claims targeted whales help support that country's whale-watching industry.

Here in Southern California, commercial whaling ended in the early 1900s, after Pacific gray whales had been slaughtered to the brink of extinction. Japan uses a research loophole in the 1986 international moratorium on whaling, and has little outside support and few sympathizers.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin collides with the stern of a Japanese harpoon whaling ship in the Antarctic. Credit: Sea Shepherd
 

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