Why Japan Keeps Whaling (Page 6 of 6)

‘The key issue is that the Japanese whaling fleet is ageing,’Kingston says.‘It’s badly in need of modernisation, but in the current fiscal climate it’s hard to see the government justifying much of a budget to upgrade the whaling fleet.’

Supporting this theory has been the delayed departure of the Japanese whaling fleet, amid claims by Greenpeace Japan that it had difficulties finding a replacement refuelling ship due to negative publicity.

‘Kyodo Senpaku lost the refuelling ship it had been using, and it’s difficult to find a ship owner who will take the risk of being associated with internationally condemned whaling activities,’Greenpeace Japan’s Wakao Hanaoka was quoted saying by The Japan Times.

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Former Sea Shepherd activist Peter Bethune says Japan was ‘looking for a face-saving out’from its Southern Ocean whaling, and changes in shipping regulations could provide the opportunity.

‘New rules governing vessels in Antarctica come into force soon, and one of these prohibits the use of heavy oils. They would have to use diesel-powered vessels and (Japan’s main whaling ship) the Nisshin Maru cannot take diesel fuel, so they would have to completely rekit the vessel,’ he says.

‘The second one is that vessels have to be double-skinned—effectively using two hulls instead of one. To do this to their entire fleet would be a massive undertaking—it might cost them $300 million, and this is only a $50 million a year operation.’

He adds: ‘Japan may choose to ignore the new regulations as it’s done in the past, but it’s harder this time round with so much public scrutiny. If I was to take a punt, I’d reckon in five years they’ll have stopped whaling in Antarctica.

‘Withdrawing from there would take a lot of heat out of the issue from New Zealand and Australia, which regard the area as their backyard.’

Bethune also points to Japan’s willingness to compromise at the latest IWC negotiations as a positive sign.

But Inwood says the Japanese government has been ‘disappointed’by the response of the anti-whaling camp to its concessions at the Morocco meeting, which included halving its quota for the Antarctic. He noted that ‘the majority of the anti-whaling countries offered no compromises.’

Japan has been accused of using its economic clout to win votes at the IWC from countries with no interest in whaling. However, its failure to win concessions may be behind its latest push to set up a breakaway pro-whaling group of 27 countries and a region, as reported by Kyodo News.

While a December 7-8 conference in the whaling town of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture on the ‘sustainable use of cetaceans’ ended only with a call by Japan’s Fisheries Agency for further discussion over the new group, the participants pledged to ‘strengthen their solidarity at the International Whaling Commission’ in the continued push for the resumption of commercial whaling.

Yet the nation’s whaling policy could be taken out of its hands, should the ICJ rule against its research whaling. While the analysts polled by The Diplomat gave little chance of such a prospect coming to pass, the Australian National University’s professor Donald Rothwell says the Australian government could seek provisional measures preventing whaling while the case continues.

‘The ball is in Australia’s court right now to seek provisional measures, which are effectively an international injunction, and my view is that doing so during the middle of the whaling season would be most opportune,’ he says.‘There’s also nothing to stop a diplomatic settlement. One way to view these international court cases is that they’re as much a political initiative as a legal initiative—sometimes you might lose on the law, but ultimately win on the politics.’

However, the recently elected Julia Gillard Government has played its cards close to its chest, saying no decision has been made regarding further court action or monitoring of Japanese whaling activities.

It might not make great cinema, but neutral observers will no doubt be hoping that the Gojira re-runs will be kept to the theatres rather than the international whaling arena.

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