Feb 18, 2011
Following intense stand-offs with activists, Japan has pulled out of its annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean mid-season.
Deliberate disruption by activists is said to have forced the Japanese whalers to leave the Southern Ocean – which is comprised of the Great Southern Ocean, the Antarctic Ocean and the South Polar Ocean – after reportedly killing only a fraction of their self-allocated quota of 935 minke, 50 fin and 50 humpback whales.
Although WSPA does not condone any activist actions that are illegal or endanger human life, we welcome the news that the Japanese whaling fleet has decided to retreat from the Antarctic and that hundreds of whales will be saved from the whalers’ harpoons.
It is not yet known whether Japan’s whaling fleet will attempt to return to the whaling grounds or what this action means for the future of whaling in Japan.
Earlier in the week, the governments of nine Latin American nations, making up the majority of the Grupo de Buenos Aires or Group of Buenos Aires (GBA), issued a public statement calling on Japan to cease its so-called ”scientific” whaling activities in the Southern Ocean, for good.
WSPA had strongly urged the GBA, alongside other NGOs in the region, to take strong action against Japan for initiating its hunting season in the Southern Hemisphere.
In addition, last year, WSPA helped facilitate a meeting of government representatives from GBA countries in Costa Rica, which led to agreement that they would not support a proposed "compromise deal," which would have effectively lifted the ban on commercial whaling and designated quotas to Japan, Norway and Iceland.
"WSPA celebrates the diplomatic action of the GBA to release a statement signed by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay, that strongly opposes the hunt and motivates Japan to cease its so-called scientific hunting program," says WSPA Latin America Campaigns Manager Marcela Vargas.
"WSPA is delighted to see that the GBA has become such a strong anti-whaling block within the IWC and staying true to its mandate of protecting whales by releasing this statement."
Despite the temporary reprieve for whales in the Southern Ocean, Japan also hunts whales in the North Pacific and more than 1,000 animals face a slow and painful death in Norwegian and Icelandic waters, each year.
WSPA believes there is no humane way to kill whales at sea and that commercial whaling, in whichever ocean it is conducted, has no place in the 21st century.
Last year, WSPA gathered more than 100,000 signatures from people all over the world, calling on Norway to end its cruel commercial whaling. It was the largest show of public opposition to Norway’s whaling since it resumed hunting in 1993.