Published on Friday, September 22, 2000 by the Associated Press
Japanese Celebrate Their Slaughter Of 88 Endangered Whales
by Ginny Parker
Beer flowed and cheers went up Thursday as a ship pulled into port carrying Japan's latest ocean catch – 88 whales.

The nation, which consumes whales both cooked and raw as a delicacy, remains unabashedly defiant before growing international criticism, defending the hunt as scientific research.

Celebrating Slaughter
Japan's research whaling fleet's mother ship Nisshinmaru Captain Narita Shigenori, foreground right, and his crews receive bouquets of flowers during a ceremony celebrating their return at Tokyo's Oi wharf Thursday morning, Sept. 21, 2000. A five-vessel fleet returned home with a catch of 88 whales, the minke, Bryde's and sperm whale, from its Aug. 1-Sept. 16 hunt in the Pacific Ocean off northeastern Japan and Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, the Fisheries Agency said. (AP Photo/Atsushi Tsukada)
Next year, Japan plans to catch up to 160 whales – and much of the meat will end up in upscale restaurants.

"All they think is that whales are cute," fisheries official Masayuki Komatsu said derisively of Westerners at a ceremony aboard the ship, the Nisshin Maru.

Japan's hunt has drawn international ire. The United States punished Japan last week by denying it some fishing rights in U.S. waters and launched an investigation that could lead to trade sanctions.

Some Japanese feel that consuming blubber is part of their culture and are miffed about having outsiders meddle with their eating habits.

"National dietary habits are products of history and should be mutually respected," the Mainichi newspaper said in an editorial. "The United States and those European states that have turned against whaling used to slaughter whales for their oil."

The Japanese public has shown little interest in the whaling controversy. TV news programs Thursday were devoted to coverage of the Sydney Olympic Games and showed nothing on the whaling mission.

Slaughtered Sperm Whale
A researcher takes photos of a caught sperm whale aboard the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru during a research whaling mission on Aug. 6, 2000, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Erimo Misaki, Hokkaido, northern Japan. For the first time in more than a decade, that catch includes not just minke but Bryde's and sperm whales as well, two species protected under but which Tokyo says are plentiful. (AP Photo/The Institute of Cetacean Research)
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in the mid-1980s but allows whaling countries to kill whales for research to gather information on migration, eating patterns and pollution levels.

After pulling into a Tokyo harbor ending a monthlong mission, the Nisshin Maru crew celebrated their return by lifting beer cans in a joyous toast. Officials at the ceremony praised the ship's crew and defended Japan's fight against international anti-whaling pressure.

"There's no reason to criticize the mission," crew member Katsuo Nemoto said. "This is biological science."

The Nisshin Maru and its fleet of research vessels brought back in a refrigerated hull 88 whales caught and killed in the northwest Pacific Ocean – 43 Bryde's whales, five sperm whales and 40 minke whales.

It was the first time in more than a decade that the catch included not just minke but also Bryde's and sperm whales – two species protected under U.S. law.

Tokyo says both are plentiful, putting estimates at 100,000 for sperm whales and 22,000 for Bryde's whales.

The hunt is in no way endangering the species, fisheries officials say, adding that the whales are hurting the livelihoods of Japanese fishermen by eating too much fish.

Toasting Whale Slaughter
Japanese whaling fleet's mother ship Nisshinmaru crew drink beer during a ceremony celebrating their return at Tokyo's Oi wharf Thursday morning, Sept. 21, 2000. (AP Photo/Atsushi Tsukada)
Activists say the research is no more than a guise for satisfying Japan's taste for whale meat.

"They're simply trying to revive commercial whaling," said Sanae Shida of Greenpeace Japan. "Do you normally have to kill animals to do this kind of research?"

Kazuo Shima, an official with the government-linked Institute of Cetacean Research, said Japan's efforts benefit the entire world.

"This research is not just for Japan," he said. "If Japan doesn't do this research, who will?"

Copyright 2000 Associated Press