New Zealand has condemned Japan’s decision to resume its annual Antarctic whale hunt in December.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said Wednesday that Japan is isolating itself from the international community by its decision to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean. He said Japan also shows a lack of respect for the concerns expressed by the people of Australia and New Zealand.
Japan is gearing up for this year’s Antarctic whale hunt with a sharp eye on anti-whaling activists who forced an early end to last year’s hunt.
Michihiko Kano, the agriculture, fisheries and forestry minister, announced Tuesday the government is planning new measures to protect the whale hunters, such as dispatching a Coast Guard patrol boat to accompany the whaling fleet.
Last year, the fleet was forced to cut short its hunting expedition because of repeated interference from boats belonging to the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The activists hurled paint and stink bombs at the ships, and snarled their propellers with floating objects.
Sea Shepherd is led by Paul Watson, an outspoken conservationist who sometimes intimidates shark finners in the Pacific near Costa Rica.
New Zealand’s foreign minister called on all parties to act responsibly and avoid actions that may endanger lives or the Arctic environment.
Commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986, but Japan has continued the practice under an exception that allows for whales to be killed for research purposes.
Tokyo says the research is necessary to determine the size of the world’s whale population, but critics say it is using research as a cover for commercial whaling. They note that the whale meat is usually sold in stores and at restaurants.
Whale meat was served as a valuable source of protein in Japan in the years after World War II, but demand for it has declined over the decades.