Japan suspends whale hunt after chase by protesters

TOKYO Wed Feb 16, 2011 12:19am EST

Japanese whaling fleet vessel Yushin Maru No. 3 (C) sprays water cannons at Sea Shepherd vessel ''Gojira'' during their clash in the Southern Ocean February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd/Handout

Japanese whaling fleet vessel Yushin Maru No. 3 (C) sprays water cannons at Sea Shepherd vessel ''Gojira'' during their clash in the Southern Ocean February 4, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd/Handout

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan has suspended its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic for now after a hardline anti-whaling group gave chase to its mother ship and it may call the fleet back home, a government official said.

Regular attempts by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to interrupt hunts have caused irritation in Japan, one of only three countries that now hunt whales and where the government says it is an important cultural tradition.

"Putting safety as a priority, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now. We are currently considering what to do hereafter," said Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official at the Fisheries Agency.

When asked if Japan was considering bringing back the fleet earlier than planned, he said this remained an option and added that Japan's whaling plans were not going smoothly.

Representatives for Sea Shepherd were not immediately available for comment.

Japan introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium, arguing it had a right to watch the whales' impact on its fishing industry.

The fleet, consisting of some 180 people on four vessels, is aiming to cull about 850 minke whales in Antarctic waters this season, which is scheduled to end around March.

In the same period last year, Japan killed 506 minke whales, well below its planned catch of around 850.

Last year, Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in The Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling. The decision is expected to come in 2013 or later.

A Sea Shepherd activist was given a two-year suspended jail term by a Japanese court in July for boarding a whaling ship, while one of the group's ships sank last year after a collision with a Japanese whaling ship.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Comments (2)
Greenforall wrote:
Correction: The Sea Shepard vessel sank after it was intentionally rammed by a Japanese Whaling vessel.

Feb 16, 2011 5:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Melmac wrote:
In response to Greenforall:

1. It was the Ady Gil that was sunk.

2. There is footage of the Ady Gil RAMMING the Japanese vessel to make the claim that they were rammed.

3. The person who basically became a pirate should’ve been jailed for his CRIME.

Frankly, there has to be more to this than the alleged successes of the Sea Shepherd Society. There’s no “victory” here at all – and in fact the Society more often than not causes problems for the environmentalists.

Mind you, I do not like whale hunting. That said, I don’t like even more people saying that a group is successful when in reality it has not been.

Feb 19, 2011 12:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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