After refueling inside the Antarctic Treaty area, the Japanese whaling fleet has recommenced the whale hunt and slaughter after 11 days. In that time the fleet has fled over 3,000 nautical miles from the far east of the whaling area to the far west. Greenpeace activists again disrupted the whale hunt on 5 January, enabling many whales to escape. Andrew, from the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, tells the story of one hunt and how the harpoonist needed only one good shot to Slaughter an Exhausted Whale Calf.

The Slaughter of an Exhausted Whale Calf
by Takver
January 05, 2006

    The Japanese whaling fleet has recommenced the whale hunt and slaughter after an absence of 11 days. In that time the fleet has fled over 3,000 nautical miles from the far east of the whaling area to the far west. Greenpeace activists again disrupted the whale hunt on 5 January by enabling many whales to escape. Andrew, from the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza, tells the story of one hunt and how the harpoonist needs only one good shot. Eventually an exhausted calf was hit by the grenade tipped harpoon.


Photo: Greenpeace inflatable uses fire hoses to block the sights of whaling fleet harpoon. 22 December, 2005. © Greenpeace / Kate Davison.

The whale hunt was last disrupted by activists from two Greenpeace ships on the 21 and 22 December. After this, the Nisshin Maru factory ship and the other whaling vessels took off at full speed, chased by the Greenpeace ships, Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise. The Sea Shepherd vessel, the Farley Mowat, intercepted the Nisshin Maru on the 25 December, with the Japanese factory ship threatening to ram the Sea Shepherd ship.

The Japanese Whaling Fleet refueled inside the Antarctic Treaty area watched by Greenpeace activists on board the Esperanza. The whaling fleet then sailed south to recommence the whale hunt and slaughter. For 24 hours Greenpeace lost track of the fleet, but contact has been made again, with 10 whale carcasses seen strung from the side of the fleet's factory ship.

Shane Rattenbury of Greenpeace said "There is a lot of public pressure [and] significant catching up to do so we expect there'll be quite an aggressive response from the whalers when we do continue with our protest and intervention in their hunting," he said.

Protesters are preparing to harass the hunter ships by positioning their small inflatable zodiacs in front of the harpoon and using portable pumps to spray a wall of water to frustrate the aim of the harpoonists. Mr Rattenbury said they had other tactics available to disrupt the whaling operation, but would not elaborate. "We've got a few tricks up our sleeve yet," he said, according to a report in The Australian.

Andrew, on board the Esperanza, described how Greenpeace disrupted the hunt today, 5 January, in a blog entry Everybody goes back to work:

    At 08:50 we saw them bring in their first whale. We were ready, but we waited. Then they brought in a second. We put the Billy Greene in the water - Cat driving, Joe, Yuko and Alain as crew. And the Esperanza moved closer. But still we waited. Then came our old friend the Kyo Maru to deliver the whale, and we stopped waiting.

    For the rest of the morning and into the afternoon the Billy Greene, later joined by the Mermaid, dogged the Kyo while it hunted. Twisting and turning, going in circles, chasing one whale after another while Cat kept her boat in position - a spray thrown straight up from the stern by the boat's fire pump. For almost two and a half hours it continued. It's impossible to describe the level of concentration this sort of driving requires. Looking forwards for the whale, looking back for the hunter, your crew shouting advice. Whale after whale escaped. Some were mothers and calves.

    In the end the harpooner only needs one good shot. It wasn't until the fire pump ran out of fuel, that they got one. The Mermaid moved in and still held the Kyo off. The crew on the Billy G had just got the pump going again and was out in front when the gunner hit an exhausted calf at close range.

    So it goes here in the internationally recognized Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

In a statement released on the Institute of Cetacean Research website, Director General, Dr Hiroshi Hatanaka, said "While unlikely to go unheeded, we warn these groups again to keep their distance from our research vessels and to refrain from any impulsive and reckless stunts. To protect their safety and that of our crews we will continue to use the water cannons as a deterrent and a safety measure," he said.

Shane Rattenbury, for Greenpeace said the sea surface was almost flat with the air temperature around zero degrees Celsius, and snow flurries. He said that they would not be deterred by the Japanese use of water cannon. "Our actions are peaceful and non-violent. They can turn the water cannons on us if they want to but we will still keep trying to stop the whales being killed,"

"Nonetheless, we were only able to cover one catcher boat today. There's three in the fleet so we haven't succeeded in catching (up with them). At last count, (they caught) six minke whales today." Mr Rattenbury said.

The research by the Japanese whaling fleet has been widely discredited, with scientific whaling being used to cover the commercial slaughter of whales for consumption on the Japanese restaurant market. Japan has increased its quota of whales to be slaughtered this year to 935 minke and 10 of the endangered fin whale.

Norway's government, following a unanimous recommendation by the Storting (Norwegian parliament), increased the kill quota to 1,052 minke whales in 2006, up from a record-high quota of 796 in 2005, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission moratorium established in 1986. Iceland resumed whale hunting under the 'scientific research' loophole in 2003 and killed 39 minkes last year and is expected to hunt a similar number in 2006.

In an example of How to study whales without slaughter and consumption, Australia's Antarctic Division flagship, Aurora Australis, left Fremantle Harbour 2nd January 2006 for a three month journey through the Southern Ocean. More than 60 scientists from 12 nations, including Japan, are taking part in a $7 million Australian-led research voyage to study whales, ocean salinity, temperature and depth as pointers to climate change and determining the health of krill populations in the areas visited.

The whaling fleet is currently located near Antarctica, south of the Australian territory of Heard Island, about 4,000km south-west of Perth.