Thu, Jul 14, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Japan, anti-whaling group trade barbs at annual conference


Japan and the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd on Tuesday swapped angry words at the world whaling conference on the British Channel Island of Jersey over the hunting of cetaceans around Antarctica.

In a plenary session of the International Whaling Commission, Japanese delegation chief Kenji Kagawa blasted Sea Shepherd’s pursuit of Japanese whaling ships as “sabotage” and “violent and illegal acts.”

Showing video footage of high-sea confrontations, Kagawa called on Australia and the Netherlands, which let Sea Shepherd register its ships under their flags and dock in their ports, to block the campaigners.

The two countries should “take adequate measures to stop their actions and ensure that they do not start again,” Kagawa said.

However, Sea Shepherd skipper Paul Watson vowed to continue harassing Japanese whalers if they return to the Antarctic sanctuary later this year.

“We are trying to find out what Japan’s intentions are,” he said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the commission, which oversees both the hunting and the protection of cetaceans.

“If they go back to the Southern Ocean, then we go back to the Southern Ocean,” Watson said.

“It doesn’t make any economic or political sense for them to go back,” he added, seated aboard the trimaran Brigitte Bardot, docked in Saint Helier.

The former French movie star and animal-rights activist contributed to the brand-new vessel, which was launched in May.

The commission has banned all types of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, a vast area of sea surrounding the land of Antarctica.

Japan conducts whale hunting there for what it describes as “scientific research,” setting self-determined quotas averaging about 1,000 whales each year during the past five years.

The killing is permissible under the commission’s rules, but other nations and environmental groups condemn it as disguised commercial whaling.

In February, Japan recalled its Antarctic fleet a month ahead of schedule with only a fifth of its planned catch, citing interference from Sea Shepherd’s vessels.

The 89-nation commission, roughly evenly split between pro and anti-whaling nations, is meeting until today.

Watson said the hardship caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing, would not cause him to soften his stance or change his tactics.

“If there were an earthquake in Colombia, would we be less hard on cocaine smugglers?” he asked. “The fact is, Japan’s whaling is illegal, so just because there is a natural disaster in Japan is no reason for us to stop opposing their illegal activities in the Southern Ocean.”

“Our objective right from the beginning was to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically, to bankrupt them,” he added.

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