SYDNEY, Feb. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has welcomed reports that Japan has called an early halt to its cruel whaling activities in Antarctica.
In November last year, in defiance of international opposition and several international laws, Japan's whaling fleet set off for the pristine Southern Ocean Sanctuary with the intention of training its harpoons on around 1,000 whales.
Despite a global ban on commercial whaling, Japan has continued to hunt whales under the loophole of "scientific whaling," yet while the meat is put on sale in restaurants and supermarkets, little science has been produced from the slaughter of these animals.
According to government sources, Tokyo has now decided to cut short this year's Antarctic hunt and Japan's whaling fleet is heading back to port with less than half of its projected quota according to Japanese media reports.
Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW's Global Whale Program, said: "Under pressure from all fronts the Japanese whaling fleet is apparently withdrawing early this season from the internationally recognised sanctuary around Antarctica. IFAW welcomes this positive move for whales. Ultimately, the decision to finally end whaling for good will take place not in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean nor on the floor of the International Whaling Commission but in the halls of power in Tokyo, Oslo and Reykjavik.
"We hope this is a first sign of Japanese government decision makers recognizing there is no future for whaling in the 21st Century and that responsible whale watching, the only genuinely sustainable use of whales, is now the best way forward for a great nation like Japan."
Whale watching currently generates around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities around the world.
Whales face more threats today than at any other time in history. IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Footage of previous Japanese whaling has shown whales taking up to half an hour to die after being shot with explosive harpoons.
In December 2010, IFAW sponsored an international whale watching conference in Tokyo, Japan which attracted delegates from around the world, including the last three countries still carrying out whaling for commercial reasons - Japan, Iceland and Norway.
Notes to Editors -
Japan set this season's kill quota for whales at up to 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales. In addition, Japan did not formally abandon previously announced plans to take 50 vulnerable humpback whales.
Shortly before the Japanese fleet set sail for the Southern Ocean Sanctuary last November, IFAW staged an event in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, with a giant aqua screen mimicking a whale blow, illuminated with horrific facts reminding people about the cruelty of Japanese whaling.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare