Five small ships sailed out of harbor on Monday in Japan’s first commercial whale hunt in more than three decades, a move that has aroused global condemnation and fears for the fate of whales.
Japan has long said few whale species are endangered, and news in December that it was leaving the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to resume hunting was the culmination of years of campaigns by industry supporters and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose constituency includes a city that has long whaled.
“If we had more whale available, we’d eat it more,” said Sachiko Sakai, a 66-year-old taxi driver in Kushiro, a gritty port city on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where the whaling ships were waved out of harbor in a brief ceremony.“It’s part of Japan’s food culture,” said Sakai, adding that she ate a lot of whale as a child. “The world opposes killing whales, but you can say the same thing about many of the animals bred on land and killed for food.”
The ships, which are set to be joined by vessels from the southern port of Shimonoseki, will spend much of the summer hunting for Minke and Baird’s beaked whales.
Whaling is a tiny industry in Japan. Whale makes up about 0.1 percent of all meat eaten in a year, with about 300 people directly linked to whaling. Japan’s annual supplies of about 4,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes amount to 40 gm to 50 gm for each citizen, or about the weight of half an apple. Even whaling supporters say building demand will take time.
Patrick Ramage, head of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, called the move a face-saving solution that could eventually lead Japan to abandon whaling.
Photo above is of the SHONAN MARU a former 1972 built whaler during BFT Season 2000 in the Mediterranean Sea back to June 2000.
Photo by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos – www.maltashipphotos.com