What a difference a year makes.
Unlike previous December launches, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society find themselves in the unusual position of waiting for the Japanese whalers to arrive on the scene. “Our vessels are ready to head out but the Japanese fleet has not left Japan yet,” Watson commented to ABC News. “That’s very unusual, we don’t know what they’re up to but we’re ready if they do and we intend to go down to the Southern Ocean and protect as many whales as possible.”
Probably around the very moment Watson was quoted, Greenpeace announced that the Japanese whalers had indeed left port — but with a much smaller fleet. “The whalers ‘are up to their necks in it,’ Greenpeace marine biologist Thilo Maack said. “First, they lose their tanker and refrigerator ship, then their sightings ship. Now they have to satisfy themselves with a halved quota and a drastically shorter hunting season.”
It’s estimated that Japan’s whaling fleet will not be able to start hunting until early January — and may have to return earlier than usual due to a lack of a refueling vessel. “The possibility of Nisshin Maru’s early return is high,” Greenpeace said in a statement. “It is anticipated that the number of whale catches will decline considerably.”
Japan’s target this year for its so-called scientific research programme includes 935 minke and 50 endangered fin whales. The quota also includes 50 humpbacks, but the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research has yet to hunt them as part of the harvest.