Thursday 28th of May 2020

murdering more whales with a traditional explosive harpoon....

harpoon gun

Old harpoon gun (picture by Gus Leonisky)

Five Japanese whaling vessels have set sail for the country's first commercial hunt in decades, in defiance of international criticism. 

The whaling ships have a permit to catch 227 whales - minke, Bryde's and sei - before the end of the year. 

Japan's last commercial hunt was in 1986 but it has continued whaling for what it says was research purposes. 

It has now withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) so is no longer subject to its rules.

IWC members had agreed to an effective ban on whale hunting, but Japan has long argued it is possible to hunt whales in a sustainable way.

Enthusiasm among whalers

The fisheries ministry has set a kill cap for the season of 52 minke, 150 Bryde's and 25 sei whales.

"The resumption of commercial whaling has been an ardent wish for whalers across the country," the head of the agency, Shigeto Hase, said at a departure ceremony in northern Kushiro for the small fleet.

He said the resumption of whaling would ensure "the culture and way of life will be passed on to the next generation."

"My heart is overflowing with happiness, and I'm deeply moved," Yoshifumi Kai, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, said. "People have hunted whales for more than 400 years in my home town."


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most intelligent...

Whales are among the largest, most intelligent, deepest diving species to have ever lived on our planet. We have hunted them for thousands of years and scratched their icons into our mythologies. They simultaneously fill us with waves of terror, awe and affection – yet we know hardly anything about them.

Whales tend to only enter our awareness when they die, struck by a ship or stranded in the surf. They evolved from land-roaming, dog-like creatures into animals that move like fish, breathe like us, can grow to 300,000 pounds, live 200 years and roam entire ocean basins. Yet despite centuries of observing whales, we know little about their evolutionary past.

In this remarkable new book, the Smithsonian's star paleaontologist Nicholas Pyenson takes us to the ends of the earth and to the cutting edge of whale research as he searches for the answers to some of our biggest questions about these graceful giants. His rich storytelling takes us to the cool halls deep inside the Smithsonian's priceless fossil collection, to the frigid fishing decks on Antarctic whaling stations, and to the blazing hot desert of Chile, where scientists race against time to document the largest fossil whalebone site on earth.

Whalebone is an illuminating story of scientific discovery that brings readers closer to the most enigmatic and beloved animals of all time. 

About the Author

Nicholas Pyenson is the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. His writing and discoveries frequently appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist  and on the BBC. A National Geographic Explorer, he has done scientific fieldwork on every continent and has led over a dozen scientific expeditions during the last decade.


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scummo isn't wailing for the whales...

Australia has long held a stance against Japan's whaling, but it's understood the issue wasn't raised by Prime Minister Scott Morrison when he met his counterpart Shinzo Abe during the G20 Summit in Osaka last month.

"I welcome the fact that they are not doing anything in the Southern Ocean now, that is a welcome development," Mr Morrison said.

"I am not going to allow our relationship with Japan to be defined by this issue."

As for whether Sea Shepherd ships would seek to again "fill a law enforcement vacuum" and confront Japanese whalers in their own waters, Ms Muirhead was less than concrete.

"There's no plans at the moment in place, but I can't really speak to the future of what's going to happen," she said.

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survival of the big ones...

Tracking the giants of the deep

Covering thousands of kilometres in a light plane, an aerial survey is documenting the remarkable recovery of the southern right whale.

By Molly Schmidt

Updated 31 Aug 2019, 11:11am

Published 31 Aug 2019, 5:05am

Photographer Andrew Halsall hangs out of the window of a small four-seater plane skimming 400 metres above the Great Australian Bight.

“Just there, beyond the wing tip,” he calls out to pilot Jenny Schmidt, who descends to just above the coastline, tipping the plane 90 degrees onto its side until the horizon is vertical.

She turns the Cessna 172 in a tight circle, orbiting their target — a southern right whale and its calf.

Each winter, the whales journey north from Antarctica to the southern Australian coastline in search of the warmer waters that form their breeding ground.

A long history of whaling left the right whale virtually extinct in Australian waters for the first half of the 20th century. But increased sightings near Albany on Western Australia’s south coast in the 1970s led biologist John Bannister to begin an aerial survey in 1976 to observe their recovery.

Now, each year Ms Schmidt and Mr Halsall embark on an adventure from Fremantle in WA to Ceduna in SA to record their numbers for the WA Museum.



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