Last week, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry of Japan announced this year was a record low for the Japanese whaling fleet, with 103 Antarctic minke whales and zero humpback and fin whales killed. Over 1,000 whales were projected to be killed during this year’s hunt. Yoshimasa Hayashi, the minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan, blamed the record low on the “unforgivable sabotage” by direct-action marine life activist group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
“One hundred and three minke whales killed and absolutely no fin or humpback whales slaughtered,” Jeff Hansen, Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, stated in a celebratory post on the group’s website. “Only 10% of their kill quota was achieved. Last year it was 26% and the year before that it was 17%. Three very successful years in a row for Sea Shepherd interventions.”
Sea Shepherd managed to cut the whaling hunt off four times and forced the Japanese fleet to dart their vessels 21 days of the 48 day hunt. Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR), a trade group for the Japanese whale-hunting industry, called Sea Shepherd’s intervention “malicious and unacceptable.”
“The consumption of whale meat is a cultural tradition in a number of countries, including Japan,” said Gavin Carter, an ICR spokesman. “Modern whaling takes place on a sustainable basis and is carried out carefully to avoid impacts on overall whale stocks.”
Earlier this year, Hayashi told Agence France-Presse that the world is engaging in “a cultural attack, a kind of prejudice against Japanese culture.” Hayashi compared Japanese whaling to the Korean practice of eating dogs and the Australian practice of eating kangaroos. “We don’t eat those animals, but we don’t stop them from doing that because we understand that’s their culture. Whaling has long been part of traditional Japanese culture, so I just would like to say ‘please understand this is our culture.’”
But Sea Shepherd contends that the hunting of the highly social, intelligent beings with complex communication skills is “ecological terrorism” and criticized by much of the global community “who has consistently called for an end to whaling.”
“Will they be returning in December? Hopefully not, but if they do, Sea Shepherd Australia is already preparing the ships for the tenth season of interventions,” Hansen added. “What can we say? We agree with the whalers. We are indeed relentless.”