Japan whaling fleet returns from Antarctic hunt with 333 whales

Reuters Yahoo News 25 Mar 16;

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's whaling fleet returned on Thursday from its Antarctic hunt after a year-long suspension with a take of more than 300 whales, including pregnant females.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014 that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, prompting it to call off its hunt that season, although it said at the time it intended to resume later.

Japan then amended its plan for the next season to cut the number of minke whales it aimed to take by two-thirds from previous hunts.

Its fleet set out in December despite international criticism, including from important ally the United States.

The final ships of the four-vessel whaling fleet returned to Shimonoseki in southwestern Japan on Thursday, having achieved the goal of 333 minke whales, the Fisheries Agency said.

Of these, 103 were males and 230 were females, with 90 percent of the mature females pregnant.

"The number of pregnant females is consistent with previous hunts, indicating that the breeding situation of minke whales in the Antarctic is healthy," the agency said in a statement.

Japan, which has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture, began what it calls "scientific whaling" in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

The meat ends up on shop shelves, although most Japanese no longer eat it.

Japan intends to take nearly 4,000 whales over the next 12 years as part of its research program and has repeatedly said that its ultimate goal is the resumption of commercial whaling.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Japan fleet returns from Antarctic whale hunt
A Japanese whaling fleet returned home Thursday from its annual Antarctic hunt, the government said, a trip that angered environmentalists and nations opposed to the slaughter.
Channel NewsAsia 24 Mar 16;

TOKYO: A Japanese whaling fleet returned home Thursday from its annual Antarctic hunt, the government said, a trip that angered environmentalists and nations opposed to the slaughter.

The ships had set sail for the Southern Ocean in December, with plans to kill 333 minke whales, despite a worldwide moratorium and opposition led by Australia and New Zealand.

Japan insists it is carrying out scientific research.

The 2015/16 hunt came after a hiatus prompted by a 2014 ruling by the United Nations' International Court of Justice, which said the annual hunt was a commercial venture masquerading as science.

The fleet arrived early Thursday at Shimonoseki port in western Japan, an official at Japan's Fisheries Agency said, but declined immediately to provide further details, including on the size of the catch.

Despite the moratorium and opposition from usually-friendly nations, Japan persists in hunting whales, using a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's 1986 ban on commercial whaling that allows for research.

Tokyo claims it is trying to prove the whale population is large enough to sustain a return to commercial hunting, and says it has to kill the mammals to carry out its research properly.

However, it makes no secret of the fact that whale meat ends up on dinner tables and is served up in school lunches.

In response to the ICJ ruling, Japan's 2014-15 mission carried out only "non-lethal research" such as taking skin samples and doing headcounts.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor.

But consumption has dramatically declined in recent decades, with significant proportions of the population saying they "never" or "rarely" eat whale meat.

- AFP

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