Bridges Trade BioResVolume 11Number 3 • 21st February 2011

Activists Bring an Early End to Japanese Whale Hunt

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The Japanese government has suspended its whaling fleet’s 2011 Antarctic Ocean hunt, citing the “obstructionist activities” of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an environmental group that is well known for aggressively disrupting the activities of whaling ships.

Japan’s harpoon ships were called home on 18 February, a month before the end of the usual season, “to ensure the safety of crew members’ lives, of assets and of the research fleet” according to Japan’s farm and fisheries minister, Michihiko Kano.

Sea Shepherd, an international non-governmental organisation, has been chasing the whaling fleet since the end of December. The group says that in this time it managed to contain two of the three Japanese harpoon ships for the past several weeks, damaged the propeller of another ship, and blockaded the factory ship from loading many harpooned whales.

Japan has made formal complaints to the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand regarding their inaction against the anti-whaling group because Sea Shepherd’s vessels are all registered and docked within the three nations.  But Australia - who launched a lawsuit against Japan at the International Court of Justice on the legality of Japan’s whaling (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 11 June 2010) - and New Zealand, have made their opinions clear that they hope this signals an end to Japan’s whaling for good.

“I’m glad this season is over,” said Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke. “Australia doesn’t believe there should ever be another whaling season again.”

The Japanese exploit a loophole under the International Whaling Commission agreement that allows for whaling to be conducted on the grounds of research of their fish supply in the Southeast Sea. Under the research exception, excess whale meat can be sold for consumption (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 25 June 2010).

Whale meat sales fund the Japanese hunt and at the end of December, when the fleet left harbour, whale meat stockpiles were close to their highest levels ever, and prices were down 66 cents per kilo from the previous year, signalling a major drop in demand. Junichi Sato of Greenpeace Japan said the price drop “has proved incorrect that Japan’s commercial whaling, which Japan calls research whaling, makes business sense and is sustainable.”

So far this year, the Japanese fleet has killed 172 whales, drastically short of their 900 whale target - a record low. Sea Shepherd representatives say they are thrilled by their success, but will continue to shadow the Japanese fleet. “We will stay with the Japanese ships until they return north and make sure that they’re out of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary” said Sea Shepherd group founder and captain, Paul Watson.

ICTSD Reporting; “Facing High Seas Drama, Japan Suspends Annual Whale Hunt”, NPR, 16 February 2011; “Japan brings home embattled whaling fleet”, AFP, 18 February 2011; “Japan urges international action against Sea Shepherd”, BBC, 18 February 2011; “Activists win; whale hunt halts in Antarctic”, THE JAPAN TIMES, 16 February 2011; “Protests halt Japan’s whaling season”, NIKKEI, 18 February 2011; “Insight: The whalers have been shut down!”, ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE, 16 February 2011; “Japan ends whale hunt after confrontations”, UPI ASIA, 18 February 2011.

12 responses to “Activists Bring an Early End to Japanese Whale Hunt”

  1. Lynette Green

    WELL DONE!!! my motto is Sve the whales. harpoon the whalers!

    More strength to you all - you’re doing something that i can only do in spirit.

    Vaya con Dios.

  2. lorelie

    YAYYY!!!!! for the whales.! Good job sea shepherd!!

  3. sidewinder

    The Japanese are poaching endangered whales in a whale sanctuary in complete defiance of a global moratorium on whaling all in the name of “Science” and guess what? The meat ends up on dinner plates, school lunch boxes and in the pet food aisle of supermarkets.

    With this seasons humiliation, it’s no wonder they are becoming desperate and dangerous.

  4. Nancy Koo

    Wonderful job, Capt. Paul Watson! Congratulations!

  5. Amy oneill


  6. David S

    Japan’s International Trade would be stronger without their fishing and whaling practices. FOr example, the age profile of people who buy Japanese cars is increasing as the youth market increasingly shy away from what they see as brands tainted by whaling. Mitsubishi products are becoming harder and harder to sell as consumers become more and more aware of their part in the extinction economics which Mitsubishi are applying to Bluefin Tuna. With regards to Sustainable Development, Japan could - and should - make much more money from whale and dolphin watching than they are making from the ongoing barbarism associated with the town of Taiji. The further economic benefits of eco-tourism available to Japan would do a lot to support a failing tourist industry. All they need is a change of policy similar to that which Australia and other former whaling nations have applied. Japan can become a world leader in marine conservation and can do so profitably. Japan does not need to kill any more.

  7. Whale Lover

    It is indeed a great day that the japanese will slaughter no more whales illegally in the name of research, but comments in your story do not help, comments like “aggressively disrupting” they are no more agressive than they have to be, their aim is to position there ships so whales cannot be transfered that is not aggressive, it is the Japanese who escalate the confrontations and the sooner whaling stops across the planet the better, this is only a victory in the Southern Ocean for this year at the moment, many other whales are killed by the Japanese around there own shores.

  8. Luke Thomas

    Dolphins and whales are in fact relentlessly killed in North Atlantic Ocean, Denmark, world wide (including USA) tuna boats, Norwegian Seas, Iceland , Faroe Islands..NOT JUST JAPAN!

    Here in Denmark you can see THOUSANDS of dolphins and whales killed - the seas are covered with rich fresh dolphin and whale blood! (Very graphic images of massive killing in Denmark).

    Also see:

    Article: Denmark’s Gruesome Festival: Mass Killing of Whales and Dolphins To Prove Adulthood

    Continue reading on Florida talks Anti-Whaling a waste of time-Pollution kills more than hunting -

  9. FrankieG

    Way to go Paul. All for him!

  10. Ross

    Paul Watson and the crew of the Sea Shepard are no better than pirates off the Somali coast and should be sunk for their actions. They are the ones putting everyone else in danger. Like it or not the Japanese are legal thru a loophole.

  11. zeroherrera


    Sea Shepherd has yet to kill or seriously injure a single person. They are using none lethal tactics and have limited the chances of injury in their confrontations. Though they might seem aggressive, they have not sunken any of the Japanese whaling ships or hijacked them. They are also not a profit driven organization.

    They are in no way like the Somali pirates.

    The Japanese have placed more lives in danger. They have had accidents and deaths during whaling, aimed acoustic weapons at helicopters, which could result in a crash and death of its crew, and rammed a defenseless inactive vessel without care for the people on board.They are a profit driven group. Their the ones who have made aggressive tactics necessary and now they have reach the end of what is legally acceptable defense within waters which prohibit military or weapons of any kind. They are also whaling in an internationally recognized Whale Sanctuary during a world wide moratorium.

    They have no right in being there and Sea Shepherd has taken it upon itself to enforce both the moratorium and protecting the boundaries of the Sanctuary.I am glad their efforts have reached this point and now they are prepared for a sustained campaign against the whalers. They are basically waging the ideal war, where lives are no longer killed in combat and victory goes to who ever succeeds in their mission as well as wins the support of the people. This campaign has seen Sea Shepherd finally taking both categories and it will likely keep them until whaling in the Southern Ocean is banned forever.

  12. Mike Serafin

    It’s about time;
    Good job Paul!

  13. Anonymous

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