And so it begins.
The Japanese whaling fleet, led by the factory ship Nisshin Maru and its catcher boats, left port today for Antarctic waters. Groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Greenpeace condemned the departure; while the Australian government expressed “deep disappointment” and called on Japan to join its $32 million non-lethal whale science program. As we’re all aware, Japan’s research claims are a giant joke. “With well over 9,000 minke whales killed in 22 years and no useful data produced, Japan’s so-called research’ in the Antarctic is an international embarrassment,” Jun Hoshikawa, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.
According to a rep for the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, the whaling fleet is targeting 850 minke whales and 50 fin whales. Humpback whales will be spared — effectively extending a postponement agreement from 2007.
There’s reason to hope that the 2009/2010 whaling season may be the last from Japan. As we reported last week, the new Japanese government is looking to cut programs that are bloated and a waste of taxpayer money — something the whaling industry is a perfect example of. With demand for whale meat decreasing and costs increasing, it may be only a matter of time before the flow of government subsidies to the fleet is cut.
And of course, waiting in the wings to help quicken the industry’s demise is the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Paul Watson and his crew will kick off Operation Waltzing Matilda on December 7th. Along for the ride once again will be a camera crew from Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, as well as the org’s latest ship, the high-tech ‘Harpoon Blocker” Ady Gil.