Japanese Whaling Under Fire

Just as pro-whaling groups were assembling in Tokyo on Thursday to work out ways to expand Japan's controversial whaling industry, the country's flagship whaling vessel, the Nisshin Maru, was crippled by a fire, leaving the boat drifting about 100 miles from the world's biggest penguin breeding ground on the Antarctic coast. While fears about a massive oil spill into the pristine waters swirled, the ship's captain refused help from the nearest ship, an old tug named Esperanza. No wonder: the ship is run by Greenpeace, which has engaged the Maru in dramatic clashes over the years to stop the whale slaughtering. Even though many polls suggest that few Japanese people have ever tried whale meat and most of the younger generation is vehemently opposed, Japan continues hunting whales through a loophole in the International Whaling Commission's rules that allows hunting whales for "scientific" purposes. Officials admitted that this year's hunt—due to kill 945 whales by mid-March—will probably have to be abandoned. The arguments for and against killing whales may get complicated but the effects on the local ecosystems are as obvious as the pain often inflicted upon these intelligent creatures. It's unclear what impact the fire on the Nisshin Maru (which featured eerily in Matthew Barney's 2006 Drawing Restraint 9) will have on Japan's whaling yen, but at least we can thank the incident for returning whales to our consciousness. The figurative fire continues. See also: ::Breaking: Possible Environmental Disaster in Antarctica

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