Conservationists were cautiously celebrating today after Japan announced it was suspending its annual whale hunt, claiming its fleet’s safety had been compromised by antiwhaling activists in the Antarctic.It isn’t clear if the order to stop whaling amounts to the beginning of the end of Japan’s annual mission to the freezing waters of the Southern Ocean. But it is the strongest sign yet that international criticism, direct action, and weak consumption of whale meat at home are having an impact.The official line, supported almost without dissent in the Japanese media, is that the actions of the whaling fleet’s nemesis, the Sea Shepherd marine conservation group, have put the crew’s safety at risk.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, fisheries agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku said the fleet’s mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, had been "harassed" by the Sea Shepherd vessel the Bob Barker.The Japanese ship is now reported to be 2,000 nautical miles east of the hunting zone and heading towards Chilean waters in the Antarctic Ocean.Sea Shepherd, meanwhile, says this winter’s campaign has been its best yet. The fleet is thought to have caught only a small number of whales – between 30 and 100 by one estimate – since it arrived in the whaling grounds at the end of December.
Read the rest of the story: Is Sea Shepherds harassment helping to end Japan’s annual whale hunt?.