www.guardian.co.uk 18th February 2011
In a surprising move, the Japanese government has recalled its whaling fleet in the Antarctic following confrontation with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The fleet was meant to stay out until the middle of March but the Japanese agriculture minister, Michihiko Kano, stated that the ships would be returning home ”to ensure the safety of lives, assets and our ships.” Sea Shepherd has made the annual voyage to the Antarctic with a selection of boats with which to harass the whaling fleet. Last year, one of the organisation’s boats, the Ady Gil, was rammed by one of the whaling boats but nobody was hurt. This year, increased resources allowed the conservationists to use a helicopter as well. Although the Japanese government has condemned Sea Shepherd as a terrorist organisation, the whaling industry in the country is not fairing well. Accusations of routine corruption and international pressure, combined with a lack of consumer interest (whale meat is sold on the open market despite the authorities claiming the whales are killed for scientific reasons), has battered the industry. Australia, one of the leading critics of Japan’s whaling practices, has welcomed the early return of the fleet. In 2010, it submitted a formal complaint with the International Court of Justice in the Hague to get the hunts banned. A decision is expected in 2013.