Europe aquariums boycott Japan goods in whaling protest

by William Hollingworth

Kyodo

A chain of aquariums in Europe has removed Japanese goods from its stores to protest Japan’s latest whaling expedition.

The group Sea Life is also calling on Europeans to boycott all Japanese products in the runup to Christmas in an attempt to change Tokyo’s mind over its contentious whaling program.

This latest hunt has, as usual, attracted much criticism in the British press and London is reported to be looking into lodging a formal protest with Tokyo.

Much has been made of the fact that this year’s hunt in the Antarctic Ocean — which includes 850 minke and 50 fin whales — will also include 50 humpback whales for the first time since 1963.

This has caused lots to be written about the “charismatic” nature of the humpback whale, and the way in which it dives and then pulls its enormous bulk out of the water.

Around 60 British parliamentarians have even “adopted” their very own humpbacks after green campaigners took photos of “well-known” whales. Their progress will be tracked on the migratory route south.

For many environmentalists, the decision to kill the humpback is the final straw in a long battle with Japan. It is estimated that 95 percent of the humpback population was exterminated before commercial hunting of humpbacks ceased in 1966.

The departure of the whaling fleet has led to 25 Sea Life aquariums and sanctuaries in eight countries across Europe boycotting all Japanese-made goods.

Around $100,000 (¥10.8 million) worth of Japanese-made cameras and film have been taken off the shelves at Sea Life’s stores. And Sea Life is now going through all its other products, including CDs, to ensure there is nothing from Japan.

Boycotts of Japanese products over whaling are rare and environmental organizations, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare, tend not to advocate direct consumer action.

Sea Life director and marine biologist Rob Hicks said: “The Japanese government ignores all diplomatic lobbying to stop this butchery. If we register our outrage in a way that threatens their economy though, we think that may have more impact.”

The British-based firm’s various centers have started broadcasting the famous and haunting “song of the humpback whale.” Sea Life will also admit anyone under age 14 for free if they sign a special “message to Father Christmas” asking him not to bring them anything made in Japan this year.

Hicks, who has led several campaigns for endangered sea creatures, added, “This latest campaign is different in that there is no compelling scientific case to suggest that whale populations will be endangered by this hunt.

“My colleagues and I feel no less strongly about it, though, as we all care passionately about whales and share a total abhorrence of this slaughter.”