whale tail 88.
(photo credit: )
Japan's excursion to the arctic that left on Sunday for a whale hunt has raised an international outcry, specifically by Greenpeace. The hunt will include the humpback, despite international laws protecting the animals.
Greenpeace Israel is extremely opposed to Japan's refusal to back down.
"What they are doing is against international law," says Theodora Karchovsky, spokesperson for Greenpeace Israel. "We must do everything we can to stop them."
Greenpeace currently has a boat called Esperanza docked outside Japan's waters, awaiting the Japanese fleet of hunting vessels. The plan is to track the Japanese vessels and physically intervene. Greenpeace International hopes it will make a difference.
"We are going to do everything in our power to reduce their catch," Esperanza expedition leader Karli Thomas told the Associated Press by telephone. "Japan's research program is a sham. We demand that the Japanese government cancel it."
The International Whaling Commission has an annual meeting focused on issues such as the whale hunt. In June, Israel attended the commission's vote on revoking the ban, and voted against it. Each year the vote takes place, the worry is that Japan has "bought" votes in its favor. Karchovsky says that although Israeli waters do not host any whales, Greenpeace Israel is completely against the whale hunt and that it does effect everyone.
"They are destroying the natural ecology of the ocean by killing the biggest and strongest animals in it," says Karchovsky. "Norway, Iceland and Denmark have voted in favor of Japan. They say they are whale-hunting countries and that whale hunting should be revived."
Japan's Fishing Ministry called the mission the "biggest-ever scientific whale hunt," and planned to continue the hunt until April 2008. Japan claimed it needed to kill the animals for research on the humpback whales' reproductive and feeding patterns. However, Japan is also claiming that it should have the right to maintain its whale-eating culture. Greenpeace is calling the whole thing a front.
"No one there is even eating whale, they are trying to sell it to the younger generations by marketing things like 'whale burgers,' but no one wants it," says Karchovsky. "They are just [engaging in the whale hunt] to prove that they can."
The whalers plan to kill up to 50 humpbacks. If they follow through, it will be the first large-scale hunt of humpbacks since they were put under international protection in 1963 under a moratorium in the Southern Pacific.
The Japanese mission also aims to kill as many as 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.
The American Cetacean Society estimates the humpback population has recovered to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 since the moratorium was put in place, and they are officially listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union. Japanese fisheries officials told the public at a festive bon voyage celebration that the country should not give in to "militant activists."
"They're violent environmental terrorists," mission leader Hajime Ishikawa told the crowd. "Their violence is unforgivable... We must fight against their hypocrisy and lies." Japan insists the whale population has grown enough that taking 50 humpbacks will not make an impact.
Karchovsky insists that Japan is wrong.
"This animal is still at risk of extinction and Japan has nothing real to defend what they are doing."
AP contributed to this report.
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