The controversial Minke Whale hunting practice sanctioned by the Japanese government, whereby hunting occurs under the auspices of scientific research, looks set to continue this year.  Whale conservationists – who believe the take from the annual hunt is more likely to end up in Japanese freezer baskets than research laboratories – are preparing to resume their attempts to disrupt the activities.

Beginning in the mid 1980’s, Japan has been issuing ‘permits’ to kill whales designed to get around the restrictions the international community has placed on the cull.  Organizations like Greenpeace have been responsible for a lot of the political pressure applied that have resulted in many of these restrictions, but for many more hard core activists these efforts have been insufficient.

The crew of the Sea Shepherd – which has very confrontational tactics – scoffs at the efforts of Greenpeace and similar outfits, and prefers more direct action.  Each year they meet the Japanese hunting ships in Antarctic waters and do their utmost to disrupt the hunt.

Some of the methods they use are very confrontational, and can involve approaches as mild as cutting whalers’ nets to extreme options such as boarding their ships. While they claim some success – the Sea Shepherd says the hunt as shortened by 6 weeks last year – others are more skeptical.

Many claims these aggressive approaches, while they may cause short-term gains, poison the minds of Japanese citizens against whale conservation.  Since the long-term policies of the Japanese government are largely dependent on public opinion, it makes more sense to wins the hearts and minds of their voters to the cause.

In the meantime, the hunts proceed and Minke whales continue to die, while conservationists fight amongst each other about which group is pursuing the most effective methods to eventually achieve a total ban. We can only hope that sometime soon all parties involved will join in agreement that these beautiful animals are worth saving.

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