In heart-wrenching and controversial news, Japan’s fisheries minister says the country will begin whaling in Antarctic waters once again this year, with additional security to fend off those pesky activists.
These whale hunts have become extremely tense as a result of conflict with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The previous expedition was cut short after several confrontations at sea, and it’s been unclear until now whether the hunt would be held again this year. The answer was confirmed Tuesday by fisheries minister Michihiko Kano, who indicated the hunt would go ahead, with additional precautions to ensure the whalers’ safety. The whale hunt is expected to begin this December.
Despite commercial whaling being banned since 1986, Japan still conducts hunts in the northwest Pacific and Antarctic under exceptions that allow limited kills for research purposes. Tokyo claims the research is necessary for data on whale populations, to re-evaluate the international ban on whaling.
Opponents claim the program is a disguise used to keep Japan’s withering whaling industry alive in any way possible. The Sea Shepherd group is already rallying to block the hunt and has been criticized in its attempts to stop the kills.
Last year one Sea Shepherd vessel sunk after colliding with a Japanese ship. The captain was arrested after boarding a whaling ship from a jet ski and brought to Japan for trial where he was convicted of assault, vandalism, and three other charges. He was given a suspended prison term.
Despite worldwide anti-whaling organizations, Japan’s strong pro-whaling position apparently has plenty of public support, with an AP poll finding that 52% favor it, 35% are neutral about it and a mere 13% oppose it.
Whale meat is commonly found in stores and restaurants in Japan, and was once a common item on school lunch menus. Due to the high price, it’s generally sold as a gourmet item.
Do you think whaling for “research purposes” is acceptable today, or should opponents push an anti-whaling stance within Japan as well?
Image CC licensed by guano: Sea Shepherd crew members getting hosed by water cannons.