Saturday, July 9, 2011

Southern Ocean Kamikaze

They're gluttons for punishment!
Japan has hinted that it may yet return to Antarctica in December. The Ministry of Fisheries has requested a Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat to escort the whalers - but the Coast Guard is reluctant to take part, saying it has no legal basis to do so.
During the last Sthrn.Ocean killing (er... sorry, "research") season, the fleet carried armed coast guard officers for the first time in three years, after the boarding of one of the hunt ships by Sea Shepherd activist Pete Bethune.
Use of a Japanese Coast Guard vessel would create some interesting political dilemmas for Japan and the signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, as military vessels are prohibited in the Antarctic Treaty Zone. If the fleet does return, it’ll be increasing its debt with further subsidies from the Japanese government, in a year which saw its economy slammed by the tsunami disaster. It would also break the new International Maritime Organization (IMO) law which became effective from 1st July, prohibiting use of heavy fuel below the 60th parallel south. On top of that, the aging factory ship Nisshin Maru only has single-hull ice strength, not the required double-hull. And it dumps approx.40% of whale carcasses overboard each year, again in contravention of IMO law. So logic, practicality and the law suggest the whalers won’t return but, when it comes to whaling, they seem to be blinded by an irrational nationalistic fervour.
Sea Shepherd is forward-planning too, considering adding a fourth fast ice-strengthened vessel to its team for "Operation Divine Wind 2011-2012". That’ll mean one large vessel for each of the harpooners. Japan's tactic last year (of tailing SS’s two large ships to relay their position to the factory ship) worked, but at the cost of losing the killing ability of each harpoon vessel. Their extra harpoon vessel was only able to kill some whales, while the other two tailed Sea Shepherd’s flagship Steve Irwin and Bob Barker.
Steve Irwin and Brigitte Bardot will be defending pilot whales in the Faroe Islands this northern summer, before heading south to join Bob Barker on "Operation Divine Wind" in Antarctica.
PS: 12 July 2011 - Japan confirms (at the IWC) that it will be back in the Sthrn.Ocean Whale Sanctuary again this coming season...
PS: 29 July 2011 - ...and now the Japanese Govt.says maybe not...

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