June 9th, 2010
12:28 PM ET

Controversial Japan whaling fleet sets goal of 260 animals

A Japanese research whaling fleet left port Wednesday on a mission to catch 260 whales by the end of August in an effort to research the
creature's feeding patterns, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) reported.

Three harpoon and two research ships with more than 200 crew members left from different ports in Japan and are being sent by the Institute of Cetacean Research, which conducts the research whaling activities under the authority of Japan's Fisheries Agency.

Japan's whaling has drawn sharp criticism from environmental advocacy groups, who claim it involves the cruel slaughter of whales so that meat can be sold in markets and restaurants. Japan has hunted up to 1,000 whales in the Antarctic annually, according to the International Whaling Commission.

Officials in Japan say their hunts are permitted under rules prohibit commercial whaling but allow whaling for scientific reasons - including
lethal force for research purposes.

But Australia has taken the controversial issue a step further - asking an international court to weigh in on Japan's whale-hunting practices.

"We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science," Peter Garrett, Australia's environmental protection minister, told reporters.

Their bid may be boosted by the statements from two former Japanese whalers who told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Foreign
Correspondent" show that there is systemic embezzling aboard the whaling vessels.

The men told ABC that whaling ship crew members often take hundreds of pounds of meat from the whales and often sell it or eat it themselves.

"First, when the ship returns to Japan and arrives in the port, a transport truck is waiting. The crewmen will then pack the whale meat they stole into a cardboard box. One person carried off 500 to 600 kilograms," one man told ABC.

If the claims are true, it would undermine Japan's assertions that its main purpose for whaling is research - not the reselling of meat.

An official with the Institute of Cetacean Research said they recognize the anger some people have over whaling practices but insist the work they do is for research. They know like in similar years they will face threats of protests or problems at sea - especially since the film "The Cove" which explores the issue has gone mainstream.

Australia's lawsuit, and the Japanese trip, comes as an anti-whaling activist faces charges including assault and trespassing in a Japanese court. Prosecutors allege that Peter Bethune, an environmental activist from New Zealand, threw butyric acid at a whaling ship, jumped aboard and attempted to make a citizen's arrest of the captain. Bethune has pleaded guilty to all charges except assault. He testified Monday that he did not intend to hurt anyone. A verdict is expected later this month.

Still, despite protests and threats, the research center says they will continue on with their trip as normal.

"You can't tell what antiwhaling groups would do," one official told Japan's Kyodo News Agency according to a Japan Times report. "We will be more careful than ever."

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Filed under: Japan • Whales
soundoff (239 Responses)
  1. OOTGP

    If they go get the one that is beached in New York they only need 259.

    June 11, 2010 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. I encourage everyone to help stop this massacre

    Please help out one of the ONLY organizations that actively interferes with the slaughter of these miraculous creatures.
    Donate to seashepherd.org you will see you money put to good use, they have truly helped reduce the whale slaughter.

    June 11, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  3. steve

    As an avid hunter I don't condone useless harvesting I don't see the point in whaling but what gets me is the people who get into an extreme rage over this yet I see no one saying one single word about the tens of thousand of innocent infants who are murdered (aborted)come on really WHALES!!! This is utterly disguisting to see people put the life of an animal above the life of another human being

    June 19, 2010 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  4. grass fed beef

    Sow much reap much sow little reap little.

    January 31, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dudley0415

    Clearly, there are not enough big problems in the world, so we have hundreds of millions to spend on the harvesting and the harvest resisting of 260 minke and pilot whales in the Southern Ocean, and years and years to argue about it. Apparently, Australia even has a line item in their federal budget for it.

    February 6, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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