IFAW welcomes early halt to slaughter of whales in Antarctica and calls on Japan to end its whaling for good

Wednesday, 16 February, 2011
Sydney, Australia
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org) has welcomed reports that Japan has called an early halt to its cruel whaling activities in Antarctica.

In November last year, in defiance of international opposition and several international laws, Japan's whaling fleet set off for the pristine Southern Ocean Sanctuary with the intention of training its harpoons on around 1,000 whales.

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the loophole of 'scientific whaling', yet while the meat is put on sale in restaurants and supermarkets, little science has been produced from the slaughter of these animals.

According to government sources, Tokyo has now decided to cut short this year's Antarctic hunt and Japan's whaling fleet is heading back to port with less than half of its projected quota according to Japanese media reports.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW's Global Whale Programme, said: "Under pressure from all fronts the Japanese whaling fleet is apparently withdrawing early this season from the internationally recognised sanctuary around Antarctica. IFAW welcomes this positive move for whales. Ultimately, the decision to finally end whaling for good will take place not in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean nor on the floor of the International Whaling Commission but in the halls of power in Tokyo, Oslo and Reykjavik.

"We hope this is a first sign of Japanese government decisionmakers recognizing there is no future for whaling in the 21st Century and that responsible whale watching, the only genuinely sustainable use of whales, is now the best way forward for a great nation like Japan."

Whale watching currently generates around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities around the world.

Whales face more threats today than at any other time in history. IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Footage of previous Japanese whaling has shown whales taking up to half an hour to die after being shot with explosive harpoons.

In December 2010 IFAW sponsored an international whale watching conference in Tokyo, Japan which attracted delegates from around the world, including the last three countries still carrying out whaling for commercial reasons - Japan, Iceland and Norway.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation