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Japan Suspends Whaling Hunt, Blames Sea Shepherd

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In another resounding victory for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Japan today announced that it was suspending its 2011 whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

Hirosh Kawamura, an official at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the hunt has been “temporarily suspended” since February 10th due to the actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. “We have experienced the dangerous attacks from them, it might take the life of crews,” he told CNN. “Considering the safety as the first priority, we decided to halt the whaling temporarily.”

For those that follow Sea Shepherd’s annual campaigns down under; especially through Animal Planet “Whale Wars” series, there’s a bit more at play here than just concerns over safety. In fact, it’s worth noting that the Sea Shepherd’s tactics have not changed in the seven years they’ve been harassing the Japanese whaling fleet. So it’s mighty interesting that safety would suddenly force an early return — an unprecedented decision, save a need for repair — in the time that Japan has been hunting whales.

As many have interpreted correctly, the action is more based around the SSCS increasingly stymieing efforts with new boats and support craft; coupled with a whaling industry in Japan under financial duress and a diminishing market for its meat.

”Every year we come down here, we come down strong and the whaling fleet comes down weaker,” said Captain Paul Watson in an interview with the Kyodo news service. “I’ve always felt the key to this is financial, economic, we had to cut their profits, to sink the Japanese fleet economically, and that what we’ve been able to do.”

Since Japan for now is only using the word “suspension”, Watson says the SSCS will shadow the fleet until they’re certain this year’s hunt is really over. He added that the group plans to grow their fleet with a fourth boat should the whalers decide to return.

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