/ 12 January 2008

Greenpeace ship tracks Japanese whaling fleet

Environmental group Greenpeace said on Saturday one of its protest ships has located the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean and is pursuing it.

”Our primary objective is to stop the Japanese fleet from whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary,” said spokesperson Sara Holden, who was on board the ship Esperanza.

”For the amount of time that they run, they’re not whaling. If they try to start whaling, then we will do everything that we can to take peaceful direct action to stop that as well,” Holden told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

Japan’s whaling fleet plans to hunt 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales for research over the Antarctic summer, but recently abandoned plans to hunt 50 humpback whales after international condemnation and a formal diplomatic protest by 31 nations.

Greenpeace has been searching for the whalers for 10 days and found the fleet in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Greenpeace said on its website that activists planned to drive inflatable boats between the whalers’ harpoons and the whales if the fleet begins whaling.

An Australian fisheries ship set out last week in pursuit of Japan’s whaling fleet near Antarctica to gather evidence for an international court challenge to halt the yearly slaughter.

The icebreaker Oceanic Viking, used for customs and fisheries policing, left a naval base near Perth late on Tuesday to find and track the fleet in the Southern Ocean for up to 20 days.

Japan has long resisted pressure to stop scientific whaling, insisting whaling is a cherished cultural tradition. Its fleet has killed 7 000 Antarctic minkes over the last 20 years. – Reuters