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Japan's new government stands by whaling, not eager for bout with Sea Shepherd

September 23, 2009 |  8:19 am

Sea Shepherd crew members are blasted by water cannons from the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 1 as the Sea Shepherd helicopter flies alongside during last year's campaign against the Japanese effort.

Japan's new government this week urged Australia to help thwart the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's effort against whaling and at the same time implied that it supports the nation's longstanding tradition of hunting whales.

The conversation Tuesday at the United Nations was between Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, who was appointed last week after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was sworn into office, and Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith.

As one might expect, Smith answered that he'd like to resolve the issue through dialogue without straining relations. That could be construed to mean Australia, which is a whale-friendly nation, will not physically prevent Sea Shepherd from using Australia as a base for pursuing Japanese whaling vessels into Antarctic hunting grounds this winter (their summer).

If in fact Japan's new government supports the annual slaughter of about 1,000 minke whales -- that was Smith's perception -- it comes as distressing news to environmental groups around the world. The hunt is carried out within a loophole in a 1986 international moratorium against whaling. The loophole allows whales to be killed for research purposes, but whale meat is sold commercially.

Though few outside of Japan believe lethal research is necessary or legitimate, Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has posted some scientific findings on its website.

Meanwhile, Sea Shepherd is promising a stepped-up effort this season under the campaign slogan "Operation Waltzing Matilda." An Animal Planet crew will  be aboard filming for a third season of the popular series, "Whale Wars." 

Last year's record-setting series included dramatic footage of whale kills, vessel-ramming and tense confrontational measures and countermeasures. Surely, Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson will be expected to provide more theatrics this time around.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd crew members are blasted by water cannons from the Japanese whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 1 as the Sea Shepherd helicopter flies alongside during last year's campaign against the Japanese effort. Credit: Stephen Roest / Sea Shepherd

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