Southern Ocean whale slaughter to resume

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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

The Esperanza (Image Credit: © Greenpeace / John Novis)


The international environmental organisation, Greenpeace, have been shadowing a Japanese whaling fleet currently operating in the Southern Ocean in Australian Antarctic Territory. They claim a minor victory against the six-vessel fleet, saying no whales have been killed since Christmas Eve. However they expect a resumption of whaling and protest activity soon.

Greenpeace has two ships, MV Esperanza and MV Arctic Sunrise, active near Antarctica, in an effort to disrupt the whalers, who intend on slaughtering over 900 Minke whales and 10 Fin whales in the region this summer. The activists aim to stop the Japanese whaling fleet as it tries to catch nearly 1000 whales for what is claimed to be scientific research.

Greenpeace chief Steve Shallhorn states that the protesters have chased the six-ship fleet northwards, with the vessels now away from the designated whaling zone. Greenpeace plan to maintain their efforts to keep the whalers in the public eye.

"What the fleet is doing is trying to outrun Greenpeace so that it can sneak back into the whaling grounds and resume the kill," he said. "And for that very reason, we're doing our very best and are succeeding in keeping up with the factory whaling ship. We are certain that they do not want any further publicity."

He said Greenpeace will continue its high-speed tailing for as long as it takes. "We're capable of staying out there for many more weeks," he said. "The [Japanese] fleet is clearly embarrassed by having their actions exposed to the world, since the spotlight on their activities shows what it really is - commercial whaling with a very thin disguise."

The whalers have been unable to kill any whales since Christmas Eve due to poor weather and harassment by Greenpeace vessels, and the Washington-based Sea Shepherd ship, RV Farley Mowat. The Sea Shepherd is operating independently of Greenpeace but say they are working towards a common objective – "the shutting down of illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean."

Greenpeace expedition leader Shane Rattenbury says the whalers have a season of about 100 days. "Their quota is 945 whales. If you lose, say, 10 per cent of those through bad weather, they've got an average they need to catch of 10 a day and it's gone 10 days now without having any whales," he said. "That starts to add up pretty quickly. They're under a bit of pressure to get on with the business."

Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research have rejected the claims made by Sea Shepherd, that Japanese warship was being sent to Antarctica to protect the fleet against the activists.

The Japanese institute spokesman condemned Sea Shepherd over the claim by Farley Mowat captain Paul Watson, who called on the Australian Government to keep the peace. File:Greenpeace Vessels Esperanza and Arctic Sun.jpg

Japanese whalers take on fuel - Greenpeace
(Image missing from commons: image; log)


Sea Shepherd had requested the presence of the Australian navy to monitor events in the Southern Ocean. However, Australia's environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell, said that Sea Shepherd's threats to attack the fleet "risk setting back the cause of whale conservation many years".

Capt Watson said yesterday: "Stop threatening us, Mr Campbell, and charge us if you believe we are acting unlawfully. Stop posing for the Japanese [who] are in blatant violation of international conservation laws."

Japan's Fisheries Agency, which conducts the whaling, said the claim was a tactic by Sea Shepherd to try to raise the stakes for extra publicity.

"This is why the environmentalists' campaign in the Antarctic is a PR stunt: every time they get some media coverage there's always some member not too far away asking the public for money," an agency spokesman said in a statement. "Only this time, it completely backfired and now people will question what these groups say."

The spokesman had no response to Greenpeace's claim that another vessel had joined the whaling fleet and was refuelling the ships within the boundary of the Antarctic Treaty's nature reserve.

Mr Rattenbury said the 57 activists and crew aboard the Greenpeace ships were in good health following a quiet New Year's Day celebration on deck under a midnight sun.

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Southern Ocean whaling season (2005-2006)

He said his ships were not in contact with the Farley Mowat, which is believed to be closer to the Antarctic ice shelf. The Farley Mowat's weblog quoted ship captain Paul Watson as saying the Sea Shepherd group had no conflict with Greenpeace, despite earlier British media assertions.

"As far as I am concerned both Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace are working towards a common objective – the shutting down of illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean," said Paul Watson.

Greenpeace believes the fleet killed at least 25 whales from the time it contacted the whalers just before Christmas.

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