Whales Dec 21, 2007 6:19:47 GMT -5
Post by Flash on Dec 21, 2007 6:19:47 GMT -5
Japan drops Humpback cull
Hiroshi Oosedo, Tokyo bureau | December 21, 2007
JAPAN has abandoned its plan to hunt as many as 50 humpback whales, according to broadcaster NHK.
"Japan has decided to delist humpbacks from the whaling list for now due to concern about the negative impact on relations with Australia,'' NHK said, quoting unnamed officials.
Whaling expert Junko Sakuma told The Australian's Tokyo office that there had been a hot debate among the government officials over the hunting of humpback whales before the departure of Japan's Nisshin-Maru whaling fleet for Antartica on November 18.
She said facilities aboard the ship indicated there were no facilities to store the remains of 50 Humpback whales -- the original quota suggested by Japan.
These were the reduced number of crew on board the Japanese fleet (the number is 250, down 25 from last season), the capacity of freezers to keep whale meat, and difficulties in reducing whale meat stockpiles.
US Ambassador to Japan, Thomas Schieffer, reportedly told Reuters that he has agreed with the Japanese government on the suspension of the humpback whale hunting program.
Ms Sakuma said this would be a good way out for the Japanese government officials to call off their plan to catch humpbacks.
“They can use the US intervention as an excuse for changing their initial plan to hunt humpbacks, though they are very reluctant to listen to advice or suggestions by NGO peoples or even the Australian government officials,” she said.
Mr Joji Morishita, the Japanese government’s Chief Fisheries Negotiator, said he was aware of the news report about US Ambassador’s comment.
“But, I cannot give you any comment on the issue (of hunting humpback whales),” he said.
Ms Sakuma said no Japanese official had ever formally stated that Japan would go ahead with hunting humpback whales.
Ms Sakuma said she welcomed the Australian government’s announcement this week to dispatch a customs vessel and aircraft to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic.
”It will be great if the Australians are able to take photos of scenes that Japanese whalers are actually hunting humpback whales in the sea," she said.
She said "quite a few" experts on international law maintained that hunting humpback whales was illegal.
Humpback whales are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction.
According to the latest “Red List” of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the extinction risk of humpback whales is defined as “Vulnerable (VU), and that for minke whale as “Lower Risk” or “Nearly Threatened.”
Japanese media earlier reported that the IUCN had a plan to downgrade the humpback’s VU to “Leased Concern (LC), but it did not happen.
Mr Morishita said,”The IUCN has no legal power to force its member nations adopt its own criteria.”
Ms Sakuma also expects the Australian team will be able to get hard proof to show the Japanese whaling fleet might be dumping some parts of whale they hade caught -- if the accusation was true.
“Because of the shortage in the number of crew on board the whaling fleet, it is possible that Japanese will have to throw some meat into the ocean,” she said. “They might throw up to 50% of the catch.”
She said that IWC bans dumping of processed whale meat into the sea, but it does not say anything about the case of fresh meat.
“It will be interesting if the Australians take photos of whale guts floating in the water,” she said.
“Because Japanese whalers have kept saying that they utilise every part of whale meat,” she said.
She said: ”Anyway, it will be unnecessary for Green Peace to remain in the Antarctic to monitor the Japanese fleet, if the Australians put their plans into practice."