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Japanese whaling fleet endures rising tide of opposition

January 15, 2009 |  1:32 pm

A minke whale is processed aboard a Japanese factory whaling ship in 1995.

Could it be karma, bad luck, or merely unfortunate circumstances that have victimized the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic region?

The three-vessel fleet, which has been hounded relentlessly by a crew aboard a Sea Shepherd Society ship, has already lost a crewman, who fell overboard and is presumed drowned.

More recently, one of its damaged ships, the Yushin Maru #2, has been ordered to leave the Port of Surabaya, East Java, in Indonesia before making repairs to its propeller. Australia and New Zealand do not allow the ships in their ports because large-scale commercial whaling has been condemned internationally.

Now, it seems, neither will Indonesia, which received communiques from Australia asking that it deny the whaling ships any services.

Among them, according to Sea Shepherd, was this one from Mayor Peter Tagliaferri of Fremantle, to Port officials and Mayor Banbang Dwi Hartono of Surabaya:

"The city of Fremantle does not support the illegal slaughter of whales and has constantly conveyed this through diplomatic processes to the Japanese government.

"I believe the Yushin Maru #2 is seeking propeller repairs in your port as a result of ice damage.

"The city of Fremantle would not support this vessel to enter our fishing boat harbour to seek repairs to continue an illegal activity.

"I, as Mayor of the City of Fremantle, urge you to also not allow this vessel to be repaired in your port and as a result the Yushin Maru #2 will not be able to rejoin the illegal whaling."

So for now there are only two viable whaling ships pursuing a seasonal quota of 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. The way things are going, it appears they'll fall substantially short.

-- Pete Thomas

A minke roams the Southern California coast.

Photo, top: A minke whale is processed aboard a Japanese factory whaling ship in 1995. Credit: Greenpeace. Bottom: A minke roams the Southern California coast. Credit: Eric Martin / For the Los Angeles Times