The term whale can refer to all cetaceans, to just the larger ones, or only to members of particular families within the order Cetacea. The last definition is the one followed here. Whales are those cetaceans which are neither dolphins (i.e. members of the families Delphinidae or Platanistoidae) nor porpoises. This can lead to some confusion because Orcas (Killer Whales) and Pilot whales have "whale" in their name, but they are dolphins for the purpose of classification. (Credit: Wikipedia)


Weight of public opinion forces hunt backdown By Lauren Williams and David Barrett - 21st December 2007
(Credit: The Daily Telegraph)

THE voice of ordinary Australians, led by The Daily Telegraph's Save the Whales campaign, forced Japan's humiliating backdown on the slaughter of humpback whales.

More than 61,000 people signed the Save the Whales petition since it was launched just over two weeks ago - and Japan last night admitted the widespread outrage had been a factor in the country's decision.

"Australians consider whales to be very affectionate, something I can't really relate to. But apparently they give names to every whale and there's quite strong public sentiment," Japan's chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said.

Anti-whaling campaigner Isabel Lucas last night described the announcement as "wonderful news".

"I'm confident that the pressure from citizens all over the world has influenced their decision," Lucas said last night.

"Finally our humpbacks will be protected but we must, repeat we must, continue our efforts to protect the other species.

"The Government will obviously support popular opinion and this is an example of that popular support."

The former Home and Away star decided to speak out after being reduced to tears as she and fellow anti-whaling campaigners Dave Rastovich and Hannah Fraser watched helplessly as pilot whales were slaughtered in Japan last month.

"We couldn't save these whales, but hopefully shining the light on their deaths will save others," she said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO Steve Shallhorn last night paid tribute to the strong opposition of the Australian people to the Japanese whaling program, including readers of The Daily Telegraph.

"This is a direct result of the outpouring of support from Australians such as those who signed The Daily Telegraph petition," Mr Shallhorn said.

Mr Shallhorn said many whale species were threatened and more needed to be done to bring whaling to a complete stop.

"I think this is a significant climbdown for the Japanese government," he told reporters in Sydney today.

"Their intention has been to increase the number of whales and the number of species (targeted by whalers)... so this would not have been easy for them."

Mr Shallhorn said a protest letter signed by 31 countries that Australia passed to the Japanese government would have influenced the decision.

He said that although the Japanese government made the announcement before the note was delivered, they would have known it was coming.

"I think that protest would have been felt in Tokyo and would have been one of the reasons why the Japanese government has offered a little bit of a compromise here," he said.

"The note is a significant escalation of world opposition to Japanese whaling in the southern ocean.

"The number of countries to sign the protest note is quite high and includes all of the major countries who are members of the International Whaling Commission."

Mr Shallhorn said Japan's decision was a victory for people power and showed the new federal government was clearly reacting to Australians fed up with Japan's whaling program.

He said that cabinet documents from Japan showed their intention to move towards commercial whaling.

"Yesterday's statement by the cabinet reaffirms what we have been saying for many years, which is that the hunt in the Southern Ocean is a commercial hunt and that is the Japanese policy," he said.

"They intend to continue and expand that hunt."

Mr Shallhorn said the Greenpeace ship Esperanza was on its way to the Southern Ocean.

"We will use our inflatable rubber boats and put ourselves between the whales and the gunners' harpoon," he said.

Mr Shallhorn said Greenpeace was calling on the Japanese government to pledge to not build a new whaling super ship.

"Greenpeace calls on the Japanese government to recall its fleet and to halt all whaling in the southern ocean."



'Crocodile Hunter' Widow to Launch Whale Research
'Crocodile Hunter' widow Terri Irwin to launch non-lethal whale research in Antarctic waters - 26th December 2007
(Credit: ABC News)

The widow of TV "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin announced Thursday she will launch non-lethal research of whales in Antarctic waters next year in hopes of showing that Japan's scientific whale kill is a sham.

Tokyo has staunchly defended its annual cull of more than 1,000 whales as crucial for research, saying it is necessary to kill the whales to properly gather information about their eating, breeding and migratory habits.

Environmentalists and anti-whaling nations say the slaughter is commercial whaling in disguise, because much of the meat from the whales ends up being sold commercially.

Terri Irwin said that a whale watching program she started to honor her late husband would expand into scientific research in 2008. Steve Irwin, the high-profile wildlife show host and environmental campaigner, was killed by a stingray last year off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

"We are working with Oregon State University to do formalized research in the southern hemisphere," Terri Irwin told the Nine Network television. "We can actually learn everything the Japanese are learning with lethal research by using non-lethal research."

Japan's whaling fleet is run by a government-backed research institute and operates under a clause in International Whaling Commission rules that allows whales to be killed for scientific purposes.

Japan had planned to kill up to 50 endangered humpback whales this season, but backed away from the plan in the face of strong international condemnation.

"We are determined to show the Japanese they can stop all whaling, not just humpbacks," Irwin said.

Further details of Irwin's planned research program were not immediately available.

Earlier this month, Irwin threw her support behind a radical conservation group that has vowed to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt, allowing the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to rename one of its flagship vessels after her late husband.

Sea Shepherd has come under heavy criticism in recent years for engaging in violent tussles with the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters.


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