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News :: Environment
Japanese to slaughter 50 endangered Fin whales, 950 Minke whales
04 Jan 2008
Captain Watson of the Sea Shepherd is searching for the Japanese whalers
Fins in firing line as Japan stops humpback kills
Frank Walker
December 23, 2007

Japan's cave-in on its plan to kill 50 humpback whales in the Southern Ocean this summer was not a breakthrough because whalers would continue to hunt the even more endangered fin whale, protesters said yesterday.

Japanese whale hunters will go ahead and kill 50 fin whales, even though they are officially endangered species and a moratorium on hunting them is imposed by the International Whaling Commission.

The fin whale is the second largest animal on the planet, growing up to 26 metres in length. They were hunted to the edge of extinction until the 1960s. Even now their numbers are unclear but could be as low as 5000 in the Southern Ocean.

The Australian Government welcomed Tokyo's decision on Friday to hold off killing humpback whales for the next two to three years. It followed a formal diplomatic protest by 31 countries, led by Australia. "While this is a welcome move, we will continue to urge Japan to bring an end to its lethal so-called 'scientific whaling' program," Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

But Japan said it will go ahead with slaughtering 50 endangered fin whales and 950 smaller minke whales in the Southern Ocean this summer. It comes as protest groups revealed Japan plans to build a larger whaling mothership to replace the ageing Nisshin Maru.

The head of the radical Sea Shepherd anti-whaling group, Captain Paul Watson, said the Japanese had tried to avoid protest ships this year by heading to the western end of the Southern Ocean, south-west of Perth, instead of the normal start south of New Zealand.

He will sail his black-painted ship, newly renamed the Steve Irwin, 2500 nautical miles into the area.

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