Sushi or Tourism: What Are Whales For?

Blue whale, courtesy IFAW

By Stephen Leahy

[Update Jan 15 2008. Japanese whalers are on the hunt right now with activists in hot pursuit just like last year. Little has changed from the situation documented in this 2006 story. SL]

TORONTO, Dec 28 (Tierramérica) – Japan’s controversial whaling fleet has arrived in the Southern Ocean, around Antarctica, and anti-whaling activists are promising to ram and sink any vessels attempting to kill whales.

“What the Japanese whalers are doing is illegal under the United Nations World Charter for Nature,” said Paul Watson founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

“It’s also murder in my personal opinion,” Watson told Tierramérica from Melbourne, Australia, where his ship, the Farley Mowat, was docked.

Watson has claimed to have sunk 10 whaling vessels over the past 20 years. In the next few days the Farley Mowat and another Sea Shepherd vessel will use a helicopter and ultra-light aircraft to locate and attempt to stop the Japanese hunters from killing whales.

Greenpeace, the global environmental watchdog, is also sending two ships to document and harass the whaling fleet.

By claiming that the 935 minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and 10 endangered fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) they hope to kill are to be used for scientific purposes, the Japanese skirt a 1986 global prohibition on commercial whaling and the fact that most of the Southern Ocean has been designated as an international whale sanctuary.

International marine scientists say Japan has used the science clause since 1987 as a pretext to continue selling, and eating whale meat.

“Whaling nations say they are killing whales for scientific purposes, but often the sample sizes of depleted species are too small to answer serious scientific questions,” says Bruce Mate, director of the marine mammal programme at Oregon State University in north-western United States.

— see full story on the Antarctic Whale Hunt and Threats to Whales

Related ocean stories:

Sushi, Moonies, Whales and $Commerce

No Happy Feet: Global Warming and Krill Fishery Imperils Penguins

Overfishing Sharks Leading to Ecological Collapse

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Going Way of Northern Cod

Peak Fish: The Beginning of the End of Ocean Seafood

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