Friday, December 21, 2007
Humpback whales are safe - for now
from The Scotsman newspaper;
Japan suspends hunt for humpback whalesERIC TALMADGE in TOKYO
ANTARCTICA is safe for humpback whales – for now.
Following worldwide criticism, Japan's government announced yesterday that a whaling fleet currently in the Southern Ocean for its annual hunt will not kill the rare species as originally planned. The fleet will, however, kill some 935 minke whales, a smaller, more plentiful species, and 50 fin whales.
Japan dispatched the fleet last month to the southern Pacific off Antarctica in the first major hunt of humpback whales since the 1960s. Commercial hunts of humpbacks have been banned worldwide since 1966 and commercial whaling overall since 1986. The fleet was to kill 50 humpbacks. However, the plan drew criticism from environmental groups, which had opposed the hunt in general but were outraged by the inclusion of humpbacks due to their rarity.
Nobutaka Machimura, the Japanese government's chief spokesman, said: "We hope that the discussion (on hunting] will (now] be carried out calmly on the basis of scientific evidence."
Tokyo has staunchly defended its annual kill of more than 1,000 whales as crucial for research purposes. Japan's whaling fleet is run by a government-backed research institute and operates under a clause in International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules that allow the killing of whales for scientific purposes.
The US, which is currently the IWC chair nation, recently held talks with Japan to seek a one or two-year suspension of the humpback hunt.
Carlos Gutierrez, US commerce secretary, said: "We applaud Japan's decision as an act of goodwill toward the IWC."
Earlier this week, Australia announced a new campaign to stop Japan's annual whale hunt, including sending surveillance planes and a ship to gather evidence for a possible international legal challenge. Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said yesterday's move was welcome, but added there was "no credible justification for hunting whales".
The Scotsman newspaper.Last Updated: 21 December 2007 10:31 PM