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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 14:14 GMT
Greenpeace disrupts Japan whalers
Greenpeace inflatable and Japanese whaling vessel (pic: Greenpeace)
Activists radioed the whaling ship with their demands
Greenpeace vessels have been involved in a standoff in the Antarctic with Japanese whaling ships in an attempt to disrupt the planned killing of 400 minke whales.

This take of whales is about profit not science and is intended as the forerunner of a much larger hunt

Greenpeace campaigner Richard Page
The environmental group said in a statement the action was the first move in a campaign ahead of a governmental meeting next year on the future of whaling.

The Greenpeace research vessel MV Arctic Sunrise - with 30 activists from 16 countries on board - has tracked the fleet since it set sail last week.

Activists in inflatable dinghies moved alongside the Japanese vessels, radioing the Greenpeace demand that Japanese whaling be ceased.

Environmental groups as well as many governments reject Japan's assertion that it takes minke whales in the Antarctic for scientific research.


"This take of whales is about profit not science and is intended as the forerunner of a much larger hunt," said Greenpeace whale campaigner Richard Page.

"It's wrong to think that because we've had a temporary ban on commercial whaling the whales are protected - they're not," he added.

Japanese whaler eating whale meat, AP
Whale meat is a delicacy in Japan
Japan ostensibly gave up commercial whaling following an international moratorium declared by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986.

But it has been catching hundreds of minke whales for "scientific research" since 1987, saying the hunts provide information on whale feeding habits and migration patterns.

But Greenpeace says that a miniscule portion of the estimated 2,000 tonnes of whale meat taken annually is used for science.

The rest allegedly finds its way to Japan's restaurants, where it is served as a delicacy.

New Zealand, one of several states trying to create a sanctuary for whales in the Southern Hemisphere, has described Japan's policy as "despicable".

Drastic decline

At its last meeting in July, the IWC passed a resolution that "strongly urges the government of Japan to halt the lethal takes of minke whales."

Greenpeace ship MV Arctic Sunrise in the Antarctic
The Greenpeace ship has been tracking the Japanese whaling fleet
Recent data suggest the minke population may be much lower than previously thought.

Scientists working in the Antarctic have reported that schools of whales are smaller than usual, while the influential IWC Scientific Committee has said it cannot rule out a drastic decline of up to 50%.

Japan wants the IWC to allow the resumption of full-scale commercial whaling despite the fact that some species were hunted to the brink of extinction in the last century, before the IWC imposed a ban.

The IWC is due to meet again in May in Shiminoseki, the Japanese home port of the whaling fleet.

Greenpeace fears Japan will secure majority backing for its policy following the Tokyo government's high-profile campaign to secure the support of states through the use of overseas development aid.

The environmental pressure group says the strategy is tantamount to vote buying and has launched its latest campaign to draw attention to the issue.

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese whalers prepare for hunt
04 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Whaling 'safe for a century'
27 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Green group backs limited whale hunt
26 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Whaling ban survives intact
23 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Battle looms over whaling ban
18 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan admits trading whale votes
06 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
'End whaling ban for whales' sake'
17 Nov 00 | Americas
Japanese whalers sail despite row
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