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Japan vows to proceed with controversial whale hunts

December 11, 2009 |  9:24 pm


So much for recent claims by Greenpeace that an end to Japanese whaling might be in sight because of its high cost in a bad economy.

Japan's foreign minister, Katsuya Okada, this week stated the country's new government will not review its policy on whaling, which has a powerful cultural significance.

Japan's fleet of harpoon and processing vessels is en route to the Antarctic region to participate in an annual hunt that targets 935 non-endangered minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales. "We do not think there is a need for a policy review," Okada told the Australian newspaper. 

Okada added: "It would be a different story if it were an endangered species.... on the verge of extinction. But if not, I think the average Japanese would like to consume whale meat in the future."

Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which also is en route to the area to try to disrupt the whale hunt, seized the opportunity to point out that Okada made no reference to research Japan supposedly is conducting in association with the hunts.

"He has made it very clear that this is a commercial operation and the objective is to kill whales for consumption and for profit," Watson said in a post on the Sea Shepherd website.

Japan has been taking advantage of a "lethal research" loophole in the wording of an international moratorium imposed on commercial whaling in 1986. The Institute of Cetacean Research was established in 1987.

The whale hunts are funded by the sale of whale meat and government subsidies.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: A crewman from the Japanese whaler Yushin Maru No 3 leans over with a gun to help subdue a minke whale. Credit: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society