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Greenpeace determined to track down Japanese whaling fleet hunting protected humpbacks

Greenpeace determined to track down Japanese whaling fleet hunting protected humpbacks

A Japanese whaling fleet sailed Monday toward waters off Antarctica to resume hunting of protected humpbacks in defiance of international opposition, while Greenpeace activists vowed to chase the ships and disrupt the expedition.
Greenpeace said its protest ship Esperanza was searching for the whaling fleet south of Japanese territorial waters Monday and would shadow the ships to the South Pacific in an attempt to reduce their catch.
"It's a large ocean, but we're going to track them down," expedition member Dave Walsh told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.
In a farewell ceremony Sunday at the southern Japanese port of Shimonoseki for the four-ship expedition, officials told a send-off crowd that Japan should not give in to militant activists.
"They're violent environmental terrorists," mission leader Hajime Ishikawa said. "Their violence is unforgivable ... We must fight against their hypocrisy and lies."
Families waved small flags emblazoned with smiling whales at the ceremony and the crew raised a toast while a brass band played "Popeye the Sailor Man."
The whalers plan to kill up to 50 humpback whales in what is believed to be the first large-scale hunt for the once nearly extinct species since a 1963 moratorium in the Southern Pacific put the giant marine mammals under international protection.
The mission also aims to kill as many as 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales in what Japan's Fisheries Agency says is its largest-ever scientific whale hunt. The expedition lasts through April.
Japan says it needs to kill the animals to conduct research on their reproductive and feeding patterns. Scientific whale hunts are allowed by the International Whaling Commission, but critics say Japan is simply using science as a cover for commercial whaling.
An IWC moratorium on commercial whaling took effect in 1986, but Japan has killed almost 10,500 mostly minke and Brydes whales under research permits since then.
The head of Japan's Fisheries Agency, Shuji Yamada, said Tokyo's scientific research would help prove that sustainable whaling is possible.
The American Cetacean Society estimates the humpback population has recovered to about 30,000-40,000, but the species is listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union.
A whale biologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Ken Findlay, said he was worried Japan would kill whales from vulnerable breeding grounds like those off New Zealand.
He also said Japan's hunting methods were unnecessarily cruel. "I don't think firing a harpoon at a whale and then dragging it next to the ship is ethical," Findlay said. "It's not research."


Updated : 2021-10-17 01:23 GMT+08:00