IFAW: Modern Day Tragedy-Graphic Footage Depicts Slow, Agonizing Death
for Harpooned Whale in Southern Ocean Sanctuary
Jan 6, 2006
Patrick Ramage of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), 508-776-0027

CAPE COD, Mass., Jan. 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The full cruelty of modern-day commercial whaling was made public today by the release of footage of Japanese whalers hunting down a minke whale in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary off of Antarctica. The footage, shot by Greenpeace, was given to IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare -http://www.ifaw.org ) - a global leader in the campaign to protect whales - in an effort to highlight to the world the full scale of cruelty associated with modern-day whaling.

The footage shows Japanese whalers using a high-powered harpoon to gun the minke whale down. The harpoon embeds in the minke's back, hooking the large whale, but failing to kill it. The whale is then reeled in and tethered to the side of the boat with the harpoon still embedded in it. With its head and blowhole trapped under water, the whale struggles for nearly ten minutes, unable to gasp for air before finally dying. IFAW experts have been asked by Greenpeace to analyze the footage to evaluate the level of animal cruelty inflicted on the whale.

IFAW scientist and international whale expert Vassili Papastavrou, who analyzed the footage, said: "This is nothing short of a modern-day tragedy. Greenpeace experts on site told us this whale took ten minutes to die, and you can see from the footage the whale is tethered by the harpoon but does not appear to have been hit in a vital organ. There is very little blood in the water, for an animal of that size.

"For some time the whale is seen breathing quickly at the surface. It is then winched up to the ship by the tail and is clearly still alive and thrashing around. It likely died from asphyxiation because its head was kept under water.

"This is how a whale was killed with observation boats in plain view. So what happens when no one is watching?"

IFAW will be reviewing the full footage of this event and will prepare a report on its findings.

Despite a global ban on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, Japan is currently hunting 935 minke whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. This is more than double the number of whales it took there last year in an area the IWC and international community has designated as a sanctuary for whales since 1994.

Japan hunts under the guise of "scientific" whaling, and in addition to minke whales it also plans to harpoon 10 endangered fin whales over the coming months. Over the next two years, it plans on hunting 50 endangered humpback whales and an additional 40 fin whales.