The Whaling Situation Heats Up

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    The International Whaling Comission conference held in Japan came to an end today, as a fleet of Japanese whaling ships has been coming under attack by anti-whalers in the waters near Antarctica. Here are a few updates on the situation:

    The conference has ended, with Japan and the other pro-whaling nations condemning the anti-whaling nations (is anyone surprised?).

    “Pro-whaling nations issued a draft statement Thursday accusing anti-whaling countries of “imperialism” for imposing a ban on commercial hunts, and Japan threatened to quit the International Whaling Commission unless it is reformed.

    The statements came at the end of a three-day conference in Japan aimed at reforming the IWC. The meeting, however, was boycotted by half the commission’s membership, including anti-whaling nations the United States, Britain and Australia.

    Japan and other pro-whaling countries argue the IWC is too polarized to be effective and has strayed from its original purpose of managing commercial whaling. Instead, the IWC is simply maintaining a ban on commercial whaling, they say.

    “Imposing moral and ethical judgments that affect our right to use resources in spite of scientific evidence is imperialism,” the summary said, listing views voiced at a panel discussion during the conference.


    News that a Japanese whaling ship, which was attacked by anti-whalers in recent days, is on fire is all over the international media:

    A Japanese whaling ship has caught fire near Antarctica, leaving one crew member missing and raising fears of environmental damage.

    The blaze on board the Nisshin Maru prompted the evacuation of its crew onto other ships.

    The cause of the fire is still unknown, but New Zealand authorities said it had nothing to do with whaling protesters.
    About 120 members of its crew were evacuated to three other ships in the whaling fleet, while 40 sailors stayed on board to fight the fire in the ship’s engine room.

    One crew member is reported missing, but it is not clear whether he was caught up in the flames or went overboard into the icy waters of the Ross Sea.

    New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said that while the safety of the whaling ship’s crew was the top priority, “we are also gravely concerned about the environmental risk to Antarctica’s pristine environment, if the ship is sufficiently damaged to begin leaking oil”.

    One New Zealand’s TV3 channel has been far from sympathetic in its coverage of the fire, as this headline shows:

    Is “whale killer” a common term used for sailors on Japanese whaling vessels? Anyway, let’s see how the Japanese press is covering the whaling issue….

    David @ Tokyo, who blogs about the whaling issue, has discovered an interesting comic created by N-H-K:

    As readers can tell for themselves, the cartoon likens the IWC circus to a boxing ring, with Japan, Korea, Norway and Iceland representatives all standing in the red corner of the ring, which is emblazoned with a whale picture labelled “Commercial Whaling Resumption”.

    Meanwhile, in the blue corner, a sign is placed on the boxer’s stool proclaiming the position of the other team: “Absolutely Opposed”. Outside the ring, the blue team is a shambles, with the New Zealand representative is seen vigorously tut tutting those who are still willing to fight, the British rep sitting on his bum, the Aussie rep skipping rope, and the completely disinterested American rep is infatuated with a newspaper article about Iraq.

    The Japanese rep is wishfully indicating to the blue team reps to get back in the ring, while the Iceland rep is crossing off another year of whaling in 2007.

    The full size comic is available here.

    Of course, the whaling normalization meeting held in Japan was not without domestic opposition. Here is a video showing a small group of Greenpeace-affiliated Japanese protestors braving the bad weather on Valentine’s Day to hold an anti-whaling march:

    It looks like there are less than 10 protestors in all. Is domestic oppositition to whaling really so weak?

    Other bloggers have also posted interesting information about the whaling issue, check them out:

    • Japundit’s Iron Chef has weighed on the collision of a Sea Shepherd ship with a Japanese whaler, and expressed his opposition to the hunting of endangered whale species. [Link]
    • The Mutant Frog has pointed out the bizarre relationship between Bjork and the whaling ship that is currently on fire. [Link]
    • Trans-Pacific Radio discusses the whaling issue in their most recent news podcast. [Link]

    Will Japan leave the IWC? Will the Nisshin Maru explode, or even worse, sink into the ocean and cause a whale oil spil? Stay tuned to Japan Probe for the latest news on the whaling drama bomb!

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