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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 05:49 GMT 06:49 UK
'Victory' over Japanese whalers
Chris Hogg
BBC News, Tokyo

Nisshin Maru factory ship in the Southern Ocean (Greenpeace/PA)
Japan insists that efforts to hunt whales will be redoubled
Environmentalists in Japan are claiming a rare victory after five key private companies quit the whaling business following a pressure campaign.

The firms said they will transfer their shares in the country's largest whaling fleet to public interest corporations.

Greenpeace claims it is global pressure from consumers that has forced the financial backers to pull out.

But the companies deny this and Japan's government says the transfer of shares will not affect its policies.

The companies own shares in a firm which operates seven of the eight ships in Japan's whaling fleet.

The new shareholders will include the Japanese government agency that promotes whaling. On the face of it this will not change much.

The Japanese fleet will continue to hunt for whales. But environmentalists insist this is a victory.

Pressure point

One of the private firms that is dumping its shares is a huge Japanese fishing company called Nissui.

Three months ago campaigners in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and the United States began to put pressure on its subsidiaries, protesting against the parent company's connection with whaling.

Although Nissui like the other four firms says the campaign has nothing to do with its decision to pull out of the business, a statement from one of its subsidiaries expressed hope that it would shift the demonstrators' focus from the company.

Greenpeace activists, who harassed the Japanese whaling fleet earlier this year, said they had taken the fight from the high seas to the supermarket shelves.

Japan insists that efforts to hunt whales will be redoubled. From now on, whaling will be seen as something backed by the whole of Japan, not just private firms, an official said.




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