Political Pressure on Japan Over Illegal Whaling Increases as Greenpeace Protest Continues
AMSTERDAM/SOUTHERN OCEAN: As Greenpeace today continued to take non-violent direct action against the Japanese fleet illegally whaling in the protected Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, Brazil added its voice to the growing international opposition to Japan's Antarctic whaling programme.
At 4.30am GMT, Greenpeace activists witnessed the transfer of a harpooned whale from a Japanese catcher ship to the factory ship, Nisshin-maru. Five activists, using an inflatable boat and a helicopter, displayed banners to communicate to the Japanese crew that its hunt is illegal and should be stopped. The activists then used a water pump mounted on the stern of the inflatable to spray water in front of the catcher vessel's harpoon to prevent it from killing more whales.
Last week, the Brazilian environment minister, Jose Sarney Filho declared, in a letter to the Japanese Ambassador in Brazil, Mr. Katsunari Suzuki, that "the international community should not tolerate any kind of subterfuge that serves as a pretext to the brutal practice of whaling". He added that Brazil supports all initiatives that uphold UNCLOS, the international law of the seas.
"Brazil's condemnation is the last in a series of international opposition to this illegal hunt. Yet it's clear that Japan will continue to trample over international law in order to push through its whaling programme unless united, global opposition is voiced," said Greenpeace campaigner, John Bowler on board the Arctic Sunrise. New Zealand, Argentina, Britain, the US and Australia have recently made diplomatic moves to pressure Japan to cancel its illegal Antarctic whaling programme. Greenpeace has also been informed that Germany's foreign minister will raise this issue with his counterpart in Japan.
In addition to continuing to whale illegally in the Southern Ocean, Japan, with the support of Norway, is actively lobbying to lift the current ban on the international trade in whale products at the International Meeting of Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to be held in Nairobi, in April 2000. European representatives of CITES met on Friday 14th January to decide whether to support or reject Norway and Japan's efforts to overturn the CITES ban. The result of Friday's meeting is yet to be made public.
Japan's Antarctic whaling programme is in violation of articles 65 and 120 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, (UNCLOS - adopted in 1982) that requires all states to co-operate with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in the matter of whale protection. Despite repeated annual requests from the IWC to cancel the programme, Japanese whalers began hunting in the Sanctuary last November and intend to kill 440 Minke whales this year (up from 389 last year).
The Greenpeace vessel MV Arctic Sunrise has been tracking the Japanese whaling fleet, currently illegally hunting whales inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary surrounding Antarctica, since December 20, 1999. In that time, Greenpeace activists have used peaceful means to protest illegal whaling on at least 11 occasions.