Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had recently announced plans to dispatch an armed observation ship to track the Japanese whaling fleet and gather evidence for a possible lawsuit at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
The news was revealed by chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura in a press conference today. Machimura said: “Japan will not hunt humpback whales.”
“It’s true that Australia expressed quite a strong opinion to Japan on this. As a result, I hope that this will lead to better relations with Australia.” he added.
“Japan’s relations with Australia could improve, but it depends on how it will see our decision.”
The victory was greeted with enthusiasm by many conservation groups. They weren’t amazingly enthusiastic though, as this is a classic “We win! Kinda.” situation. The fleet still plans to hunt more than 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales in the Antarctic waters. Australia has been particularly upset over the plans partially because they consider the hunting waters part of an Australian whale sanctuary.
Japan has stood by its repeated assertions that the hunt is being conducted for scientific purposes, despite essentially nobody believing them. The humpback whales that are killed are all butchered and packaged for consumption on a large factory ship that accompanies the harpooning vessels. Japan has a long cultural tradition of whaling, and has continually refused to stop its whaling activities.
Whales bring in serious cash to the tourist economies in Australia and nearby nations, mostly through whale watching and other eco-tours. Australia had expressed particular outrage, and the Prime Minister was elected on an environmental platform that included opposition to Japanese whaling.
We at Environmental Graffiti will be engaging in a very tasteful and restrained victory dance (it’s based on the Macarena) to celebrate this victory for humpback whales.