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    Antarctic Again to Be Whaling Battleground Print fb
    Date: 2011-07-20    Data Source: ENS
    ST. HELIER, Jersey, UK, July 12, 2011 (ENS)
    The seas around Antarctica will be the scene of confrontations over whaling again this year.

    Japan will send its whaling fleet to the Antarctic again, a senior Japanese official has told BBC News, and the Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling vessels will be there to disrupt the hunt.

    At the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, which opened Monday in Jersey, Joji Morishita said Japan plans to send its whaling fleet back to the Southern Ocean to conduct "research" whaling. The IWC allows scientific research but not commercial whaling, which has been banned worldwide since 1986.

    "We are now discussing how we can send our fleet back to the Antarctic Ocean," said Morishita, Japan's deputy commissioner to the IWC and a career official in the Fisheries Agency. Japan must overcome financial difficulties and new oil spill regulations in addition to dealing with whale defenders in fast ships determined to prevent whaling.

    The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which forced an early end to Japan's whale hunt last season, says its ships will sail to the Southern Ocean again to disrupt the Japanese whale hunt.

    The Japanese fleet left the Southern Ocean in February six weeks ahead of schedule without taking 90 percent of their self-appointed quota after repeated clashes with the three Sea Shepherd vessels.

    At the IWC meeting, the Japanese delegation showed "safety at sea" footage of interaction with Sea Shepherd ships last season - images of conservationists hurling bottles of stinky butyric acid onto the decks, using rope in attempts to foul the whalers' propellers and blocking the shipways to prevent dead whales from being hoisted aboard. The Japanese claim to have been rammed by Sea Shepherd vessels, while the Sea Shepherd claims the Japanese rammed them.

    The Japanese IWC delegation said repeatedly that the Sea Shepherd's "terrorist" violence must not be condoned but condemned and asked the countries under which the Sea Shepherd vessels are flagged - The Netherlands and Australia - to take action.

    Sea Shepherd's objective is "to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically and bankrupt their illegal activities," said Watson.

    While not allowed inside the Hotel de France where the IWC is meeting, Sea Shepherd crew and supporters were joined by members of Surfers for Cetaceans and Women against Whaling in front of the hotel.

    "Jersey does not have any trespass laws so the security guards had no legal authority to order us to leave the area," said Watson. "However, we are not here to cause trouble and we certainly have no argument with the Jersey police. We were able to bring our concerns to the doorstep of the IWC for at least an hour, so we're quite satisfied that we have made the delegates aware of our presence."

    Bundles of outdated currency from Russia, former Soviet bloc nations, Iraq, and Zimbabwe were tossed into the air to symbolize "the bribery that Japan has been practicing for years to buy votes for their pro-whaling policy," said Watson. "This was also done to support the United Kingdom's proposal to investigate corruption within the IWC."

    Whale conservationists have accused the three whaling nations, Japan, Norway and Iceland, of buying the votes of smaller member countries by paying their membership fees.

    Fewer than 130 Western North Pacific gray whales remain, only about 30 breeding females, yet offshore oil and gas projects near their feeding grounds off Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East are expanding.

    Several governments and conservation groups warn that an oil platform is planned adjacent to the area where mother whales teach their calves to feed.

    WWF is urging the companies involved in Sakhalin - Exxon, Shell, Gazprom, BP and Rosneft - to postpone development until a commission of experts has assessed the impact on Western gray whales and made recommendations.

    WWF is also demanding that the companies avoid any future activities inside the proposed new Sakhalin Marine Federal Wildlife Reserve.

    Entanglement in fishing gear kills 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises each year. There are just 245 individuals remaining of the world's smallest cetacean, the vaquita, due to entanglement in gillnets which prevent the animals from coming to the surface to breathe. The vaquita is a small porpoise endemic to Mexico's Gulf of California.

    "In the 21st century, whales in the world`s oceans are in crisis. Oil and gas operations, shipping, and irresponsible fishing are decimating several whale and dolphin species," said Wendy Elliott, who heads the WWF delegation to the IWC meeting.

    "The IWC must become more effective in dealing with the vast number of threats to whales in our oceans and seas," said Elliott. "This will be a challenge, but is also an opportunity for the IWC to become a modern and effective body."

    At least 35 percent of the meat from minke whales slaughtered by Icelandic whalers is eaten by tourists visiting the country, who often have no idea that their menu selection is propping up commercial whaling, warns the UK-based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

    WDCS is launching an awareness campaign aimed at tourists visiting Iceland to draw attention to "the inhumane way in which these magnificent and intelligent creatures are killed before they are served up."

    "We are seeing increasing numbers of tourists walking off whale watching vessels and straight into restaurants that serve whale meat," the group said in a statement. More than 100 Icelandic restaurants and shops are currently selling minke whale meat as an exotic food - smoked, marinated or cut into steaks for grilling.

    WDCS has issued a list of restaurants with whale on the menu and a guide to whale meat terms in Icelandic, so that tourists can avoid accidentally ordering the whale they watched only hours before.