Sea Shepherd cautiously monitors Japanese whalers' suspension

February 17, 2011 12:28 pm 

CANBERRA, Feb. 17 — International anti-whaling organization, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Thursday said the group will not run up the victory flag yet, even though Japanese has suspended their Antarctic whale hunt.

On Wednesday, Japan's Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku said the whaling program had been put on hold since Feb. 10 because of harassment by Sea Shepherd activists.

However, Captain Paul Watson, who is on board the Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin in the Ross Sea, said Nisshin Maru was seen, while heading south toward the South Atlantic, to make an abrupt change to a westerly direction.

"That could mean one of two things. They're coming west on a great circle back to Japan or they're coming back to the whaling grounds," he told Australia Associated Press on Thursday.

"We're staying down here to monitor what they're doing to make sure they don't kill any whales. We're down here as long as they are," he said.

He said the anti-whaling group's crews would continue to follow the Japanese fleet and monitor the movements of its factory ship Nisshin Maru, adding that the Sea Shepherd would only celebrate victory once the whaling boats were out of the Southern Ocean.

In recent years, Sea Shepherd activists have harassed whalers, moving their ships and inflatable boats between the harpoon vessels and whales and throwing stink and paint bombs at the whaling ships.

Watson earlier on Wednesday said the group is having its most successful season yet fighting against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. He predicted the Japanese whalers had only been able to kill up to 50 whales this season.

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said it will be at least five days before it is known whether the Japanese fleet is heading back home or to other whaling grounds.

However, he said there would be a terrific celebration when Sea Shepherd returned to Hobart of Australia, if news of the suspension was true.

"The rapidly brightening prospects of Japan removing its whaling fleet from Antarctic waters will have Australians putting champagne on ice, coast to coast," Senator Bob Brown told reporters here. (PNA/Xinhua)

DCT/ebp

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