whalers blame Sea Shepherd for smallest catch in years
of ships returns home with 507 whales, short of 935 target, and says conservation
group sabotaged hunt
Ady Gil with signs of damage after a confrontation with the Nisshin INC
PIC Maru in Australia's Antarctic waters. Photograph: Sea Shepherd Conservation
whaling ships have returned from the Southern Ocean with their smallest
catch in years, prompting the fleet's leader to blame harassment by the
Sea Shepherd marine conservation group for the shortfall.
Nisshin Maru, the fleet's mother ship, returned to Tokyo harbour yesterday
with just 507 whales, a little over half the target catch of 935, according
to the fisheries agency. The haul of minke whales and a single finback was
well down on last year's catch of 680.
fleet said Sea Shepherd's attempts to sabotage the hunt had deprived it
of 31 days' whaling.
annual confrontation between the two groups reached its height in January
with the sinking of Sea Shepherd's high-tech powerboat, the Ady Gil, after
a collision with the Shonan Maru 2 harpoon boat.
speedboat's skipper, Peter Bethune, later boarded the Shonan Maru 2 to carry
out a citizen's arrest of the captain and hand over a £2m bill for
the destruction of the Ady Gil. The 45-year-old New Zealander could face
a lengthy prison term after being indicted by Japanese authorities on five
charges, including trespassing and assault.
whalers used water canon and a sonic crowd control device to deter Sea Shepherd,
whose crew responded by hurling rancid-butter bombs.
whaling fleet's leader, Shigetoshi Nishiwaki, said he was "furious"
with Sea Shepherd for preventing it from reaching its quota during the five-month
say they protect the sea, but they don't care about leaking oil or leaving
pieces of a boat behind," he said, in a reference to the stricken Ady
winter's catch fell one short of the total for 2006-7 season, when the fleet
returned home early after a fire broke out aboard the Nissin Maru.
is permitted to slaughter the whales for "scientific research"
thanks to a clause in the International Whaling Commission's 1986 moratorium
on commercial whaling.
commission prepares to meet in Morocco in June, Japan has proposed scaling
back its Antarctic hunts in return for permission to step up its coastal
which opposes the move, has threatened to take Japan to the international
court of justice unless its ends its annual hunts in the Southern Ocean,
in the Antarcatic region.
whale wars will continue in Japan with the resumption of the trial of two
Greenpeace activists charged with theft and trespassing while investigating
alleged embezzlement by the whaling fleet. Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato
could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if found guilty. A ruling
is expected in June.
said yesterday it had called on Japanese authorities to reopen an investigation
into its allegations of widespread corruption in the programme.
initial allegations have been repeatedly upheld by industry insiders,"
Sato said. "It is time for the cover-ups, the lies, the corruption
and the squandering of taxpayers' money to end."
group said negligible demand for whale meat in Japan had created a 4,455-ton
stockpile, adding that this year's catch would send another 1,800 tons into
McCurry in Tokyo