Ministry wants patrol boat with whalers

Kyodo

The fisheries ministry has asked the Japan Coast Guard to dispatch a patrol boat to protect Japanese whaling ships from antiwhaling groups this season, according to sources.

The whaling fleet suspended operations in the Antarctic Ocean last season due to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s actions, which forced the fleet’s four vessels to return home in February after catching far fewer whales than planned.

The coast guard is reluctant to provide protection in the absence of a domestic legal base on which it can dispatch a patrol boat, said an official at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Coast guard officials boarded whaling boats in the past at the ministry’s request but did not try to prevent antiwhaling activists from obstructive actions.

During the last whaling season, Sea Shepherd engaged in such acts as throwing bottles containing chemicals at the Japanese ships. The ministry thus concluded it necessary to use a coast guard patrol boat as a deterrent, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the International Whaling Commission is expected to take up the issue of safety at sea at its annual meeting to be held in Jersey in Britain’s Channel Islands next month.

Japan will urge the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and the United States to stop obstructive actions by not letting activists register ships or having headquarters in their countries.

Japan has hunted whales since 1987 for “scientific research purposes” after halting commercial whaling in line with an international moratorium, but environmentalists claim it is a cover for continuing commercial whaling.