02/16/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Japan suspends whaling in the Antarctic

Tokyo has taken the decision because of interference by ships from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which have been disrupting the movements of whaling ships. Japan is one of three countries that still hunts for whales despite an international moratorium imposed in 1986.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Japan has suspended its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic after an anti-whaling group got in the way of its mother ship. It may even call the fleet back home, a government official said.

Regular attempts by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to interfere with hunts have caused irritation in Japan, one of only three countries that still hunt whales and where the government says it is an important cultural tradition.

"Putting safety as a priority, the fleet has halted scientific whaling for now. We are currently considering what to do hereafter," said Tatsuya Nakaoku, an official at Japan’s Fisheries Agency.

When asked if Japan was considering bringing back the fleet earlier than planned, he said this remained an option and added that Japan's whaling plans were not going as expected.

Tokyo introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium, arguing it had a right to watch the whales' impact on its fishing industry.

The fleet, which has some 180 people on four vessels, planned to cull about 850 whales in Antarctic waters this season.

The fleet has had an "absolutely disastrous" season because conservationists have been relentlessly shadowing it, trying to disrupt its movements.

One of the society’s ships sank last year after a collision with a Japanese whaling ship.

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