Activist sees end to Japan’s Antarctic whale hunt

Prominent anti-whaling activist Pete Bethune believes the abrupt halt to Japan’s annual Antarctic hunt this week may signal an end to its whaling operations in southern waters.

Japan cited high-seas harassment by the US-based environmentalist group Sea Shepherd when it called its whaling fleet home early after killing 172 whales this season, about a fifth of its target.

Bethune, who spent five months detained by Japanese authorities last year, told AFP he doubted the Japanese would return.

"I believe this may be the last year in Antarctica," said the 45-year-old New Zealander, the captain of the Sea Shepherd speedboat Ady Gil which sank in icy waters following a collision with a Japanese whaler last year.

Bethune said Japan is a signatory to international maritime regulations governing vessels operating in Antarctica and will be bound by strict, new regulations on fuel types and hull construction, which take effect in August.

"I believe the Japanese may use these as a face-saving excuse to withdraw from Antarctica," he told AFP.

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