[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Japan suspends Antarctic whaling
Annual hunting temporarily suspended after what official says was repeated harassment by conservationist group.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 10:18 GMT
Japan halted the hunt after persistent "violent" disruptions by an anti-whaling group [GALLO/GETTY]

Japan has temporarily suspended its annual Antarctic whaling after repeated harassment by a conservationist group, a government official has said.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships have been chasing the Japanese whaling fleet for weeks in the icy seas off Antarctica, trying to block Japan's annual whale hunt, planned for up to 945 whales.

Japan has halted the hunt since February 10 after persistent "violent" disruptions by the anti-whaling protesters, Tatsuya Nakaoku, a fisheries agency official, said on Wednesday.

So far, the attacks have not caused any injuries or major damage to the vessels, he said, but the protesters are throwing rancid butter in bottles and once the protesters got a rope entangled in the propeller on a harpoon vessel, causing it to slow down.

"We have temporarily suspended our research whaling to ensure safety," he said.

The fleet plans to resume hunting when conditions are deemed safe, he added, but declined to say how long the suspension is planned for.

Controversial whaling

The whale hunts, which Japan says are for scientific purposes, are allowed by the International Whaling Commission as an exception to the 1986 ban.

But opponents say they are a cover for commercial whaling because whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan.

The Sea Shepherd group has been shadowing Japan's whaling fleet for several years, and its campaign has drawn high-profile donor support in the United States and elsewhere and spawned the popular Animal Planet series 'Whale Wars'.

Japan's fisheries agency has called Sea Shepherd a terrorist group for its actions.

Grant Pereira, an advisory board member for the group, welcomed the halt, saying Japan "should have suspended (the hunts) 10, 15 years ago," he said. "It's morally and legally wrong to kill whales."

While whale meat is not widely eaten in Japan, many people here believe it is hypocritical for westerners to condemn whaling while they kill cows, pigs, fish and lambs for food.

It is a cultural difference, they argue.

Last year, one of the Sea Shepherd's boats sank after colliding with a Japanese vessel.

Peter Bethune, the boat's captain from New Zealand, was later arrested when he boarded a whaling ship from a Jet Ski, and brought back to Japan for trial.

He was convicted of assault, vandalism and three other charges and given a suspended prison term. Bethune has since returned to New Zealand.

Source:
Associated Press
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.