In a seeming attempt to both flout international regulations and provoke a vocal backlash, the Japanese have sent out a whaling fleet to the South Pacific whose aim it is to target one of the planet's most endangered, and beloved, cetaceans - the majestic humpback whale. With instructions to hunt down - sorry, collect for "scientific research" - up to 1,000 whales, the Japanese sailors are setting their sights on the humpback whale for the first time in over 40 years.
The fleet will consist of 4 whaling ships, including lead vessel, 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru (which was highlighted in a recent article in the New Yorker); a Greenpeace ship will be tailing it for the entire duration of its expedition.Japan's fisheries officials have tried to defend their decision in the face of withering criticism by citing the supposed progress humpback whales have made and by making the (patently absurd) claim that killing 50 of them will have no effect. Humpback whales in our research area are rapidly recovering. Taking 50 humpbacks from a population of tens of thousands will have no significant impact whatsoever," said Hideki Moronuki, a spokesman.
As Michael McCarthy, The Independent's Environment Editor, noted in an impassioned column:
"But the excitement and pleasure of watching humpbacks is running smack into the Japanese desire to kill them, and the ensuing row is certain to echo around the globe ... Japan ignores the moratorium, and has killed whales for years under the guise of "scientific research", a risible fiction believed by no one outside Japan, as the meat from the kills is sold on the open market."
It is time for the International Whaling Commission and - to a larger extent - the world community to take immediate and decisive action to stop Japan's latest transgression. The fact that they have been allowed to continue hunting whales - in the supposed (and ridiculous) guise of "research" - is both insulting and morally reprehensible.