Poor catch for Japanese whalers

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Environmental activists and dismal weather have driven the Japanese Antarctic whaling fleet to return home after slaughtering less than a third of its planned catch at 267 whales.

While the fleet is returning "on schedule", Japan''s Fisheries Agency acknowledged that the catch was much lower than officials had hoped for. Whalers killed 266 minke whales and one fin whale instead of the 900 they had planned for upon leaving Japan in December, the agency said.

"The catch was smaller than planned due to factors including weather conditions and sabotage acts by activists," an agency official said, reports AFP. "There were definitely sabotage campaigns behind the figure."

Green group Sea Shepherd chased the Japanese fleet for most of the season, throwing stink bombs at the vessels and using ropes as they attempted to tangle their propellers. The whalers fought back with water cannon.

"This is the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. What is it about the word 'sanctuary' they don't understand?" asked Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson, reports ABC Radio Australia.

In the 2010-2011 season, the Japanese went home early after butchering only 172 whales because of successful harassment by environmentalists. Although commercial whaling is banned under an international treaty, Japan has used a loophole since 1987 to conduct "lethal research" on the animals.

Officials contend that the annual hunt is necessary to back its claim that the global whale population is plentiful, but at the same time it does not hide that whale meat allegedly caught for research purposes ends up being sold in stores and restaurants. Consequently, anti-whaling countries and conservationist groups believe what is going on behind the curtain is commercial whaling.

FIS

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