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Japanese whalers to target endangered sei whales

Auckland: The Government of Japan's abuse of science as a cover for its whaling programs has taken a new turn with the announcement that they intend to begin catching an endangered species.

Fifty Sei whales, officially listed as an endangered species in the IUCN red data book (1), are to be caught by a Japanese factory ship in an expansion of their 'scientific' whaling program in the North Pacific. The Japanese Government had tried to keep the new plan strictly confidential until shortly before the whalers were ready to sail in June, but was forced to disclose it when a Japanese wire service obtained a copy of the plan.

This announcement comes as the International Whaling Commission this week in Auckland hammers out a final plan to resume commercial whaling. (2) Greenpeace has been keeping a vigil outside the Ascot Metropolis hotel where delegates are meeting.

Japan's Fisheries Agency has long used the excuse of 'scientific research' to catch whales for the commercial market in Japan. Ironically, with changing tastes among the young coupled with the recession in Japan, the market for whale meat is steadily weakening. Some of the meat from last year's 'research' whaling in the Antarctic remained unsold. Meat from last summer's expedition to the North Pacific remains in a stockpile in Japan and has not been released to retailers. The Fisheries Agency has been forced to issue glossy pamphlets promoting whale meat in an effort to increase sales. A MORI poll in December 1999 found that the majority of Japanese people no longer eat whale meat and Greenpeace Japan staff report that it has become a "high class expensive food".

"Japan's 'scientific' whaling is an insult to science," said Greenpeace campaigner, Sarah Duthie, "and to claim that whales are eating too many fish is absurd. Decreased catches of fish are caused by humans over-fishing, not by the remnants of whale populations occupying the same ecological niches they have occupied for tens of millions of years," she added.

Japan claims it needs to catch whales to find out what they eat. Yet tens of thousands of whales were taken during commercial whaling operations in the past and studies then confirmed that 85% of their stomach contents were copepods (a type of tiny crustacean) and krill.

"Greenpeace calls on Japan to immediately withdraw this proposal and, if it wishes to research whales, to do so entirely by non-lethal means. We expect all conservation minded nations to protest directly to the Government of Japan and call for an immediate halt to this so-called 'scientific' whaling," concluded Duthie.

Notes to Editors:

(1) See

(2) The Government of Japan’s vote-buying strategy has dramatically increased pressure on anti-whaling countries to agree to a management plan for whaling. Full-scale commercial whaling could be resumed despite deep differences over the plan because vote buying by the Fisheries Agency of Japan is likely to secure a majority at the May 2002 meeting of the IWC where the plan is to be discussed.

For further information contact:

Robert Maletta, International Media Officer, Greenpeace International/Oceans Campaign
mob: (+31)-6-212-969-20


Sarah Duthie, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace New Zealand
Tel: 09-630-6317 mob: 09-25-927-301 fax: 09-630-7121

For more information and documents on the whaling issue check out the Greenpeace website:

© Scoop Media

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