(CNN) -- Japan has suspended its annual Antarctic whale hunt because an
anti-whaling group is tailing its ship, a government official said Wednesday.
Sea Shepherd regularly dogs Japanese whaling vessels during their hunts to make
their task more difficult and to lower the number of whales harvested.
WHALING STOPS IN ANTARCTIC
Operation No Compromise Successful
SEA SHEPHERD CONSERVATION SOCIETY
Wednesday, Feb. 16,
Activists win; whale hunt halts in Antarctic
The Japanese whaling fleet has suspended
its Antarctic Ocean hunt because of obstruction by Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society vessels, a Fisheries Agency official said Wednesday.
Press reported government officials are considering having the fleet return
home earlier than regular years amid the moves by the marine animal rights
"The Nisshin Maru (whaling fleet mother ship) has been chased
by Sea Shepherd vessels since Feb. 10 and thus the fleet suspended whaling
since then," said Tatsuya Nakaoku of the Whaling Section of the Fisheries
Agency's Far Seas Fisheries Division. "We are considering several options
(to deal with the current situation), but nothing has been decided."
Sea Shepherd, which funds its operation with donations, including those from
successful entrepreneurs and Hollywood stars, has been escalating its
tactics against Japanese whalers in the Antarctic Ocean in recent years.
The fleet usually leaves Japan in November and comes back in March or
April. This winter, however, it left Japan on Dec. 2, unusually late.
Greenpeace Japan, the local branch of the international conservation
group, had predicted the duration of the hunt would be shortened because of
falling profitability in whale meat sales and an increase in the frozen
stockpile of such meat.
The stockpile stood at 5,093 tons, nearly a
record level, in December. It has risen almost steadily from 1,453 tons in
Greenpeace Japan Secretary General Junichi Sato said: "The
Japanese government blames Sea Shepherd for the (possibility of) bringing
the fleet home early, but what it actually means is that it has proved
incorrect that Japan's commercial whaling, which Japan calls research
whaling, makes business sense and is sustainable."
Japan has come
under increased international pressure to cut down on whaling. The
International Whaling Commission submitted a proposal in April for Japan to
decrease its whaling quota in the Antarctic from the current 800 whales to
about 200 in 10 years.
Japan caught 506 minke whales and a fin whale
in the Antarctic Ocean in the 2009-2010 season, compared with 679 minke
whales and a fin whale in the previous season and 551 minke whales in the
season before that.
Australia in May launched legal action with the
International Court of Justice at the Hague to stop Japan's research whaling
in the Antarctic.
Japan says its whaling program complies with
Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
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