Japan whalers 'may abort hunt'

Japan says no threat to Antarctic environment after fire cripples whaling ship.

    The Japanese fleet had planned to hunt for
    more than 900 whales this season [Reuters]

    "There is absolutely no oil leak. Concerns of an oil spill are completely unfounded"

    Hideki Moronuki, Japan Fisheries Agency

    Meanwhile officials have also denied that the factory ship was leaking oil or posed a threat to the fragile Antarctic environment.

    Without power after the fire, the ship has been drifting close to Antarctica's Cape Adare which hosts the world's largest penguin breeding rookeries.

    Hideki Moronuki, a Fisheries Agency official, rejected fears of an environmental disaster and said the cause of the fire was being investigated.
    "There is absolutely no oil leak. Concerns of an oil spill are completely unfounded."
    The fire which broke out below deck in the processing area of the 8,000-tonne ship was contained by the crew but the engine was damaged and rescue operations were hampered by choking smoke.
    On Friday, crew members connected power cables from the Yuishin Maru, another whaler which pulled up alongside the stricken vessel.

    The Nisshin Maru is the main factory ship
    for processing capture whales [Reuters]

    They were using fans to clear the smoke in order to resume the search for a crewman missing since the fire broke out, a Japanese official told The Associated Press.
    A New Zealand maritime official said the Japanese crew members were waiting for the fire, fuelled in part by whale oil, to burn itself out.
    "They have to wait until it's cooled down enough to get inside and look for the missing crewman. We don't believe he's gone overboard, so the fear is that he was trapped inside and perished in the fire," Steve Corbett, a Maritime New Zealand spokesman, said.
    "They have managed to pump off excess water from the fire fighting, so the ship is no longer listing, but they haven't managed to re-enter the space to find the crewman or assess damages."
    News of the fire came as pro-whaling members of the International Whaling Commission wrapped up a meeting on Thursday in Tokyo issuing a statement accusing anti-whaling countries of "imperialism" for imposing a ban on commercial hunts.
    The special meeting hosted by Japan was boycotted by half the commission's membership including anti-whaling nations the US, Britain and Australia, aimed at reforming the IWC.
    Japan has threatened to quit the commission unless it is reformed and is calling for a return to "managed" commcercial whaling.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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