Japan's Whaling Research Faces Another Tough Year

TOKYO—The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will once again be harassing Japan's research whaling efforts in Antarctic waters over the next few months, Scott West, an organization official said here today. Last January, the organization's Ady Gil vessel collided with the whaling ship Shonan Maru 2. (New Zealand officials recently concluded that both crews were at fault.) The Ady Gil was scuttled and on Monday, Sea Shepherd christened a replacement ship Gojira (a variant of Godzilla) that will soon head for Antarctic waters to await the Japanese fleet.

There has been an international moratorium on commercial whaling since 1985. But under a clause that allows taking whales for research, Japan has been catching hundreds of minke and smaller numbers of other species each year. Critics contend that this research is commercial whaling in disguise as the meat ends up in Japanese restaurants and supermarkets. Much if not all of the data could be collected non-lethally, West claims. "And we've never seen a peer-reviewed paper," he said.

West said their direct-action campaign is having a significant impact in both reducing the number of whales caught—he says the whalers took about half their target of 935 minke and fin whales last year—and increasing costs by reducing efficiency and cutting the amount of whale meat the fleet can sell. "We're going to sink that fleet economically," West said.

He predicted another poor year for the whalers. For unknown reasons, the Japanese research fleet is still in port much later than usual.

Posted in Asia