NHK television, quoting unnamed officials said Japan ” has decided to delist humpbacks for now due to the
negative impact it would have with Australian relations”. Japan had planned to harpoon 50 humpback whales in its current expedition to Antarctica. It would have been the first time that Japan would have hunted the beloved humpback whales since the 1960′s. Commercial hunts of humpback whales ? which were nearly harpooned to extinction in the 20th century ? were banned in the Southern Pacific in 1963, and that ban was extended worldwide in 1966.

Japan had earlier denied remarks by the US ambassador, Thomas Schieffer who said Wednesday that “Japan had agreed to stand down from its plan to kill humpbacks” Humpback whales are renowned for their songs and acrobatic displays.The humpback has turned into a major tourist attraction that attracts approximately 1.5 million whale watchers a year to the Australian coasts and coastal waters.

Defying warnings from the Western nations of the US and Australia, Japan’s whaling fleet set sail last
month for Antarctica with a mission to kill 1000 whales. Most of them the small minke whale as well as the
planned 50 humpbacks.

Japan claims that whaling part of their culture even though Japanese it very little of its red meat, favoring other meats like beef. Coastal communities in Japan have hunted whales for centuries, but whale meat was not eaten widely here until the U.S. occupation officials encouraged it in the poverty stricken years after the Second World War.Despite the commercial hunting ban, Japan is permitted under the IWC rules to kill whales for “scientific research.” The meat is sold under the program and often ends up as pricey items in specialty restaurants. However, its popularity as a staple has plummeted with the availability of beef and other meat varieties.

I tend to agree with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith who said ?While this is a welcome move, the Australian government strongly believes that there is no credible justification for the hunting of any whales,?
Japans Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura takes another stance and said ?The government has decided to suspend hunts of humpback whales while talks to normalize [relations with] IWC are taking place,? He added that the suspension would last a year or two. ?But there will be no changes to our stance on our research whaling itself.?

Despite the suspension of the humpback hunt, Japan still plans to take as many as 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales in the Antarctic in what the Fisheries Agency says is its largest-ever scientific whale hunt. Japan also takes more minkes in the northern Pacific later in the year.

Environmental movement Greenpeace and the militant splinter group Sea Shepard have each sent a ship to try and disrupt Japan’s whaling. The Sea Shepard activists went too far last year when they threw acid onto the Japanese mother ship in an attempt to disrupt the hunt.

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