Japan cancels whaling hunt in Antarctic first time for 25 years
On Thursday, Japan said it was cancelling its next annual Antarctic whaling hunt, due to begin late 2014, for the first time in a quarter-century.
Television footage showed workers unloading a number of boxes labelled as whale meat parts at the port, marking the end of the traditional whaling season.
"The Nisshin Maru and two other whaling ships arrived here today after ending their mission," a port official said, following the fleet's planned arrival at Shimonoseki port in western Japan.
A "deeply disappointed" Tokyo said it would honor the judgment by the United Nations' Hague-based International Court of Justice ruling that the program was a commercial activity disguised as science.
During the four-month voyage, the harpoon fleet faced its annual confrontation with environmental activist group Sea Shepherd in the Antarctic Sea, AFP reports.
Australia, backed by New Zealand, hauled Japan before the International Court of Justice in 2010 in a bid to end the annual Southern Ocean hunt.
Tokyo has used a legal loophole in the 1986 whaling ban that allowed it to continue slaughtering the mammals, ostensibly so it could gather scientific data.
However, it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.
Environmentalists have pledged to monitor the Japanese fulfillment of the UN International Court of Justice's ban on whale hunting in Antarctic seas. "Greenpeace will keep monitoring operations of Japanese vessels in Antarctica, so that this country does not use any other loopholes in the law to continue hunting," Greenpeace Russia said on Tuesday, Interfax reports. The commercial whale hunt ban has been in effect for 25 years but Japanese is using its right to hunt whales for scientific purposes, which causes concerns in Australia and New Zealand.
The International Court of Justice based in The Hague ruled on Monday that Japanese whale hunters did not pursue scientific goals, the Japanese television station NHK said. The court resolved that Japan's whale hunt failed to meet the scientific research standards set by the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). The court said Japan would not be issued with whale hunt permits in the future. Australia filed a claim against Japan in 2010 seeking to stop whale hunting by the Japanese in Antarctica.
"Greenpeace has been fighting the cruel hunting in Antarctica for years and insisting that science is a mere cover for business. In 2008 Japan arrested two Greenpeace activists for the action they staged at the whaling fleet vessel Nisshin Maru," the environmentalists said. "The meat of whales killed 'for scientific purposes' is sold in Japanese stores and restaurants. This country has been asserting for years that whale hunt is an ancient tradition.
Now thousands of tonnes of whale meat are stored due to low demand," Greenpeace Russia said. A Greenpeace poll showed that 80% of the Japanese were opposed to whale hunting.