Japanese ship eyed by conservationists Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 January 2008 00:00

Japanese ship eyed by conservationists

By Amanda Dale, Royal Gazette, 10 Jan 2008

Conservationists have condemned the arrival of a Japanese patrol boat in Hamilton Harbour, claiming it is a PR front for the nation's government while hundreds of whales are slaughtered in Antarctica Shipping agents for the Mihama say it is simply here on 'R and R' and to refuel, but anti-whaling campaigners say it is to improve the Japanese government's image.

The Fisheries Agency of Japan vessel docked in Hamilton Harbour at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and is scheduled to depart at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Agent Meyer Agencies Ltd yesterday insisted the 499 tonne ship was "not a fishing vessel" but a fishery patrol boat.

A spokesman said the Mihama is visiting the Island from Puerto Rico, where it will return on Saturday.

The vessel will then head back to Japan via the Panama Canal and Hawaii.

The spokesman said: "It is owned by the Japanese government and inspects the fleet. It is just here on R and R and to get some fuel.

"Each year one of these inspection vessels comes here for R and R and then heads down south. The ship does not fish whatsoever, it just polices the Japanese fishing fleet, looking at the catch and size of boat."

A Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre spokesman could not confirm the number of crew yesterday or the vessel's official purpose of visit as it "had not completed the information correctly".

But he confirmed the ship has visited Dockyard to refuel — the current winter mooring site of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society flagship, the Farley Mowat.

The SSCS has scuppered ten whaling vessels around the world and last month dispatched the Steve Irwin in pursuit of the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

Last night conservationist and author Andrew Stevenson, who is filming a documentary on Bermuda's migratory humpback whales, said: "The Fisheries Agency of Japan is the same government agency that does 'scientific research', killing over 1,000 whales in Antarctica.

"This is just a PR front so Japan can say they patrol their own vessels to make sure they are not overfishing.

"I accept this is a patrol vessel but the same government fisheries agency is currently whaling down in the Antarctic."

Mr. Stevenson, of Paget, said: "How can people trust the Fisheries Agency of Japan when they say they are doing scientific research but at the same time killing 1,000 whales? As far as I'm concerned they have no credibility."

Japan has continued to slaughter despite an International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Whalers have exploited a loophole by claiming the annual cull is for 'scientific research'.

Last year, Japan added 50 humpbacks and 50 fin whales to its quota of 935 whales, but stopped hunting humpbacks in the Southern Ocean on December 21 following pressure from the Australian government and IWC.

Another Bermudian conservationist, who did not wish to be named, said last night: "I have lived and worked in Japan and for the government to say they are policing themselves, this is a complete front for a politically sensitive situation.

"Why is that boat here? Japanese boats must be in the Atlantic fishing. Japan is overfishing the oceans and this is a real problem.

"This ship (the Mihama) represents an organisation which is stripping the oceans of mammals and fish."

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