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JAPANESE WHALERS DEFY
WORLD OPINION

In keeping with their annual defiance of international opinion, Japanese whalers returned to port on Wednesday, 11 April, having killed 440 southern minke whales in their 14th season of 'scientific whaling', WWF, the conservation organization, said today.

This year, Japan's self-awarded catch was for up to 440 southern minke whales, and they took their full quota. Japan has now caught a total of 5,035 southern minkes from the Southern Ocean under their 'scientific whaling' programme, even though an international moratorium on whaling has been in force since 1986, and the whole Southern Ocean was declared a whale sanctuary in 1994. The Japanese whaling fleet consists of a large factory ship, three whale catcher boats and one sighting boat that left Japan in mid-November.

"Yet again, Japan has flouted international opinion by using a legal loophole that allows genuine scientific research, but was never intended to open the door to such large-scale whaling," said Cassandra Phillips, WWF's senior policy adviser on whales and Antarctica. "By defying the world in this way, the Japanese whalers are not only bringing criticism on their country, but putting at stake the credibility of international agreements."

In addition to whaling in the Antarctic, since 1994 the Japanese whaling fleet has also spent each summer in the north Pacific catching northern minke whales. Last year, in spite of widespread condemnation from many world leaders and the threat of trade sanctions, they even added two new species to the hunt, Bryde's whale and the threatened sperm whale,

At meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to discuss strict new regulations for controlling whaling, the most recent in Monaco in February 2001, Japan has failed to show any willingness to reach an agreement with the majority of nations on ways to ensure a secure future for the world's endangered whales.

Japan's stated objectives for 'scientific whaling' include obtaining information to help with the 'management' of whaling. However, the Scientific Committee of the IWC has stated that such information is not needed for management. The Japanese 'scientific' whaling may even be depleting minke whale populations. Last year the Scientific Committee announced that they were unable to give a figure for the total number of southern minke whales, but they thought it could be appreciably lower than their previous estimates of half a million to a million whales. The scientists also agreed that southern minke whales are a separate species to northern minkes hunted by Norway, showing again how much can still be learnt about whales without killing them. Southern minke whales are not in danger of extinction, but many other species of the great whales are endangered.

"Whatever the merits of the scientific research being carried out, it is clear that this is also commercial whaling. The whale meat is destined for Japanese markets and restaurants, making good profits for the whalers. It is time the IWC got back in control of the situation. The IWC should put in place measures to end this abuse at its upcoming annual meeting in July 2001, '' said Cassandra Phillips.

For further information:

Cassandra Phillips, Senior Policy Adviser, WWF International, Whales and Antarctica. Tel/fax: +44 1386 882055. Email: cphillips@wwfint.org

Robert Kihara, Press Officer, WWF International, Tel: +41 22 364 9553. E-mail: rkihara@wwfint.org

Notes

(1) The scientific name of the southern minke whale, which the Japanese have been hunting, is Balaenoptera bonaerensis (2) Seven out of the 13 species of great whales are listed as "endangered" or "vulnerable."

Written by: WWF International


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