Breaking: Japan Signals Return to Whaling in the Southern Ocean
Japanese media report the Japan Fisheries Agency will again send its whaling fleet to the waters of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica later this year to slaughter hundreds of whales in the name of "science".
As whale-huggers in other hemispheres slept last night, sad news was re-surfacing in the Land of the Rising Sun. Japanese media report the Japan Fisheries Agency will again send its whaling fleet to the waters of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica later this year to slaughter hundreds of whales in the name of "science". If true, this means the shameless sham of Japan's "scientific" whaling program will continue for at least another season, dashing the hopes of many conservation advocates around the world that senior Japanese officials had come to their senses when the fleet abruptly ended it's killing this past February.
This morning's news is disappointing but not surprising. Frantic to save their turf and budgets, hardline bureaucrats in Japan's Fisheries Agency and Agriculture Ministry would rather fight than switch to more enlightened policies, even in the wake of the terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that have wreaked havoc on the Japanese physical, political and economic landscape in 2011. And more senior officials had earlier signaled their international counterparts that a n immediate climb-down this year, following skirmishes on the open ocean with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society last season, was not in the cards.
That's discouraging and a cruel and senseless death sentence for hundreds of "protected" whales is certainly cause for dismay, even despair. But I'd still bet this is the last gasp for Japan's Antarctic whaling. The industry is out of gas and crashing. The costs to the Japanese taxpayer (including a reported $US 27 million security top-up this year to protect whaling boats from those pesky pirates) cannot be sustained.
This short-sighted move is more about pride than profit, more about politics and theprerogatives of the Fisheries Agency than public support for a 19th century industry. The good people of Japan -- particularly those under 70 --have lost their yen for whale meat. Meanwhile, coastal communities around the country ar pursuing profits from responsible whale watching with growing numbers of enthusiasts patronizing whale watching companies and operators whom IFAW is proud to support. The future lies with them and it is a better future -- for animals and people.
That Japan will quit the Southern Ocean seems certain. The walls are quickly closing in, with economic, diplomatic, legal and environmental regulatory pressures all on the rise. Continued and consistent signals from the international community will be needed. Today's news reminds us it is Tokyo that will determine when and how the whaling ships permanently withdraw, not Canberra, Wellington or Washington. But withdraw they will. You can bet on it. -- PR