While Japan said earlier in the week that they were “suspending” whaling operations in the Southern Ocean, it’s now official that they’ve throw in the towel on this year’s hunt. Naturally, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is thrilled – declaring February 17th as “Victory in the Southern Ocean Day”.
“The Nisshin Maru made a significant course change immediately after the Japanese government made it official that the whaling fleet has been recalled,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen from the Bob Barker. “She looks like she’s going home!”
Japan’s Fisheries Minister, Michihiko Kano clearly regretted the decision to end the season early, but left the door open on the fleet returning yet again next year. “It’s becoming difficult to secure the safety of the fleet,” he said. “From the point of view of securing the safety of the lives, properties and research vessels, we have no choice but to bring the research to an end. It’s regrettable that we received such obstruction. We need to do it in a way which we won’t be obstructed from now on.”
Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano added, “We will work out definite measures to ensure we can continue research whaling without giving in to sabotage.”
In terms of the whales, estimates from the Sea Shepherd indicate that Japan was able to fulfill perhaps 10% of their kill quota.
“We think they’ve only managed to kill between 30 and 100 whales so out of a quota of 985 I think we’ve saved about 90 per cent of the whales or even more and that’s pretty good,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen.
The Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Gojira will remain in the Southern Ocean to escort the Japanese ships northward. “We will not leave the whale sanctuary until the last whaling ship has departed,” said Gojira captain Locky MacLean.
So obviously, Japan is once again embarrassed by the SSCS — definitely more so this year than previous. Already the calls have gone out to ambassadors from Australia, New Zealand, and The Netherlands to stop allowing the org to register ships under their flags; a cry we’ve all heard before and will likely fall on deaf ears.
The real question is, could Japan be scorned enough to seriously follow through on talk to find real ways to stop Sea Shepherd? They beat the same drum last year after not meeting their quota, so there’s little precedent to expect change. And with the SSCS fully planning on adding another vessel to their fleet for next year’s campaign, Japan would have to spend some serious cash to curtail harassment in an effort to meet quotas. All this from an industry with surplus stock, little demand for its product, and heavily dependent on tax breaks and government support to keep it afloat.
I’m not saying the fat lady should start singing on Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, but perhaps the Sea Shepherd should name next year’s campaign “Operation Swan Song” just in case.