National

Japanese fleet's return to port spells end to contentious research whaling in Antarctic Ocean

JIJI, Kyodo

A ceremony to welcome home a fleet of whaling ships, including the 8,145-ton Nisshin Maru, from the Antarctic Ocean took place in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Sunday.

The return brings an end to Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Ocean for scientific research, which started in 1987.

Tokyo has decided to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission (IWC)and resume commercial whaling in July.

The ships, which left for the Antarctic Ocean in November, caught 333 minke whales from which, during processing, about 1,000 tons of meat will be taken, according to officials. This time there were no acts of sabotage by the U.S. antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd, they said.

During the ceremony, Fisheries Agency Director-General Shigeto Hase said scientific information gathered during the 30-year-long research whaling program in the Antarctic Ocean can be regarded as the property of mankind.

Japan will continue nonlethal scientific whale research in the Antarctic Ocean, such as counting the number of whales by visual inspection, the agency said.

Takeharu Bando, chief of the Institute of Cetacean Research’s cetacean biology section, who served as head of the research whaling mission, expressed gratitude to the crew members for working in sub-zero temperatures in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan suspended commercial whaling in 1982, in line with a moratorium adopted by the IWC, but it has been catching whales under what it calls a research whaling program since 1987 — a practice often criticized as a cover for commercial whaling.

The government, which insists scientific evidence has confirmed that certain whale species are abundant, notified the IWC of its pullout in December after its proposal to resume sustainable commercial whaling and change decision-making rules at the body was rejected at its annual meeting in September.