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ROSS SEA WHALING






This year the Southern Ocean whaling season has got off to a slower start usually they leave around the middle of November however this year they left in December. The Japanese Whaling Fleet are reported to have left Japan about a week ago and will be in the Southern Ocean in about another three weeks. On making inquires about the apparent delay NAUTICAL LOG was referred to a Japanese report by the National Research Institute of Far Seas Fisheries, Yokohama, Japan. The abstract translated from Japanese to English as received:

"A systematic cetacean sighting survey for abundance estimation is planed in the Antarctic in the 2010/2011 season as a part of the Japanese Whale Research Program under special permit in the Antarctic (JARPA II). The research area is south of 60S in the Antarctic Areas V and western part of VI, between 130E and 145W including the Ross Sea during December 2010 and February 2011. Two dedicated sighting vessels, Shonan-maru No.2 and Yushin-maru No.3 will be used based on the survey procedures of "the International Whaling Commission/Southern Ocean Whale and Ecosystem Research (IWC/SOWER)" using both closing (NSC) and Passing with the Independent Observer (IO) survey modes. Distance and angle estimation training as well as some experiments will be conducted. Abundance of Antarctic minke whales will be estimated using data and recent analysis methods of the Scientific Committee (SC). Biopsy skin sampling of blue, fin, humpback, southern right, and sperm whales will be opportunistically collected for assessing stock structure. Photographs for photo-identification studies of large cetaceans such as blue, southern right and humpback whales will also taken. The cruise report will be prepared by researchers and submitted to the 63rd, IWC/SC meeting"

Now it seems to NAUTICAL LOG that the Japanese have just declared an 'open-season' on any whale that exists in the area they declared and to give a rather false impression of marine science studies they will take some photographs. In addition the two vessels mentioned are the same vessels engaged in finding, tracking, and slaughtering the whales in previous seasons.

Research schedule

  • November 2010 Vessels leave Japan
  • Late December 2010 Vessels start survey in the research area
  • (approximately 80 days in the Antarctic)
  • Early March 2011 Vessels end survey in the research area
  • April 2011 Vessels return to Japan
Research Area

This survey will be conducted south of 60S in the IWC management area V (130E-170W) and the western part of Area VI (170W-145W) in a longitudinal span of 85 on the eastern side of the JARPA II research area including the Ross Sea in this season. The research area is divided into a northern strata and a southern strata in each Area.
Two Japanese researchers will be on board each vessel (personnel not determined). These researchers must have considerable experience conducting line transect surveys, biopsy's and photo-id experiments in the Antarctic through the IWC/IDCR-SOWER and JARPA and JARPA II Programs.

Clearly the Japanese Whaling Fleet is concentrating its whaling operations in Areas V, VI and the waters of the Ross Sea Dependency. Since the British largely lost interest in the Dependency it has fallen on New Zealand to take and show an interest.

The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand (RCCNZ) is responsible for the Ross Sea. Recently the New Zealand Government stated that it would monitor and observe all whaling activities in its area of responsibility. We may therefore reasonably expect to see the vessels of the New Zealand Navy patrolling the Ross Sea as a result of this NZ Government statement. The charts shown at the beginning of this Post should clarify all this. How this will affect the activities of anti-whaling groups such as Sea Shepherds is an open question. No doubt they will join the Japanese Whaling Fleet and conduct anti-whaling tactics. What those tactics will be with the presence of the NZ Navy one will have to wait and see. If the NZ Navy does not patrol their Area of Responsibility, in spite of their Government's statements then one supposes the usual violence will occur. However this season there will be that Australian Government vessel MS Gojira involved. Unless granted a Privateer Commission under "Letter of Marque" by the New Zealand Government to operate in New Zealand Territorial Waters it will be without any legal authority under International Maritime Law.

NAUTICAL LOG believes it can easily be seen from all this that the naval and diplomatic complexities are becoming more and more involved. If one thinks about it, firstly the Japanese had a conference of interested nations in Japan, secondly they very cleverly developed a scientific programme in the Area that brought in the New Zealand Government one of whose citizens, namely Bethune, was detained at sea, charged, tried, found guilty and punished in the Japan Court System this year. The Japanese handled things very skillfully and have gained considerable 'face' by these actions, which is so important in Asian countries.
Good Watch.

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