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Sea Shepherd considers new anti-whaling campaign in northwest Pacific
1:47 pm GMT+12, 10/03/2011, Australia
The activist group Sea Shepherd says it's considering a new campaign to harass Japanese whaling operations in the northwest Pacific Ocean.

Japan's annual hunt in the Southern Ocean was called off a month early this year and the Fisheries Minister blamed the low catch on interference by conservationists.

But the waters off Antarctica are just one of the hunting grounds of the Japanese and Sea Shepherd is considering going after the whalers off Japan's coast.

Days after returning from a confrontational campaign in the Southern Ocean, the founder of Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson, is considering harassing Japan's other whale hunt, the one that takes place off its own coast.

“Right now we're concerned with making sure the Southern Ocean hunt is shut down 100 per cent,” he said.

“They may be back next year and we'll be prepared for them if they do. But if not, then we will be prepared to go up to the northwest Pacific to pursue them further.”

Every year Japan hunts whales in the waters off Antarctica, but this season they only managed to harpoon about a fifth of their self-appointed quota.

A Japanese whaling expert has told Radio Australia that the low haul in the south might encourage more hunting in the northwest Pacific, near Japan.

Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson says any future operations in the northwest Pacific would be outside Japan's 370 kilometre economic exclusion zone.

“We're an anti-poaching organisation, not a protest operation like a lot of people think. So we go into area where they're prohibited by international conservation law from operating,” he said.

One of Sea Shepherd's tactics is to block the loading ramps of the whaling mother ship and also to chase other whaling vessels.

Last year, two vessels collided and a small Sea Shepherd boat sank, although the crew was rescued.
In a statement emailed to Radio Australia, Tatsuya Nakaku, an official at the Japan Fisheries Agency, said these kinds of confrontations are unforgivable.

“Sea Shepherd's obstructive action threatens the life and property of Japanese whaling vessel crews so it cannot be condoned. It cannot be forgiven whether it's carried out in the South or North,” he said.

Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd estimates that 350 whales are killed in the northwest Pacific each year.

He said if Sea Shepherd does mount a new campaign of harassment in the northwest Pacific, it's likely to take place in May 2012.

SOURCE: RADIO AUSTRALIA/PACNEWS

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