Spring whaling off Hokkaido starts


Three boats left the port of Kushiro, Hokkaido, Tuesday for what the government calls research whaling in the spring.

Usually, the spring hunt is conducted off Ayukawa port in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, but it has been switched to Kushiro, the base for autumn whaling, as Ayukawa port was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The crew, including around 30 members from Ayukawa, will catch up to 60 minke whales by early June to study their ecology.

Ryoetsu Okumi, a 69-year-old whaler who has been in the business for more than 50 years, said, “I’m happy to be able to work this time as I grew up in a whaling town,” expressing hope that the hunt will contribute to reconstructing the livelihoods of the Ayukawa people.

Critics call Japan’s research whaling a cover for commercial whaling.