Japan suspends whale hunt

TOKYO: The Japanese whaling fleet has suspended its annual Antarctic Ocean hunt after Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessels chased the fleet's mother ship, a Fisheries Agency official said Wednesday, the Japan Times reported.

Regular attempts to interrupt the hunt by activists from the US-based environmental group Sea Shepherd, which funds its operation with donations, including those from Hollywood stars, are forcing the fleet to return home earlier. The fleet usually leaves Japan in November and comes back in March or April, but this winter it left Japan on December 2.

"The Nisshin Maru (whaling fleet mother ship) has been chased by Sea Shepherd vessels since Feb. 10 and thus the fleet suspended whaling since then," said Tatsuya Nakaoku of the Whaling Section of the Fisheries Agency's Far Seas Fisheries Division, as reported by Jiji Press.

"We are considering several options (to deal with the current situation), but nothing has been decided," Nakaoku added.

Japan has come under increased international pressure to cut down on whaling in recent years. The International Whaling Commission submitted a proposal last April for Japan to decrease its whaling quota in the Antarctic from the current 800 whales to about 200 in 10 years.

Japan caught 506 minke whales and a fin whale in the Antarctic Ocean in the 2009-2010 season. The country says its whaling program complies with Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.


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