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Whale militants say out of fuel to chase Japanese

by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 28, 2008
Militant environmentalists who have halted Japan's whaling in the Antarctic Ocean said Monday they were set to return to shore as they were running out of fuel.

Japan said it would resume whaling with the departure of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose announcement came two days after more mainstream environmental movement Greenpeace also said it was returning from sea.

Sea Shepherd said its ship, named after late Australian environmentalist Steve Irwin, would head back to Melbourne "within a few days."

"Our objective now is to keep the hunt from resuming before the end of January. Unfortunately our fuel reserves will not allow us to stay longer than that," Sea Shepherd's founder, Paul Watson, said in a statement.

The Canadian campaigner appealed for assistance to fund fuel and repair work so the ship could quickly return to sea.

"We need to make every effort to keep the pressure on the Japanese whaling fleet, to keep them on the move and to keep them from killing whales. Given the fuel, we can keep up the pressure," he said.

Japan halted its hunt after clashes in mid-January with activists on the Steve Irwin who hurled stink bombs at the whaling fleet.

Two Sea Shepherd activists, a Briton and an Australian, hopped onto a harpoon vessel in mid-January, setting off a two-day standoff that was resolved after Australia picked up the pair and handed them back to the Steve Irwin.

Japan's Fisheries Agency confirmed that it has not killed whales in the nearly two weeks since the incident and welcomed news Sea Shepherd was heading to shore.

"We're relieved at hearing the news that vessels engaged in illegal, violent action are leaving," Hideki Moronuki, the Fisheries Agency's whaling chief, told AFP.

"We haven't resumed our research whaling since the incident. But we will do so in line with our original plan once we can confirm that it is safe," he said.

Japan, defying most Western nations, kills some 1,000 whales a year using a loophole in a 1986 global whaling moratorium that allows "lethal research" on the giant mammals.

Japan makes no secret that the meat ends up on dinner plates and accuses Western countries of disrespecting its culture. Only Norway and Iceland defy the moratorium on commercial whaling outright.

Sea Shepherd, funded in part by celebrity supporters, has a longrunning feud with Greenpeace, which has also followed the Japanese whalers but says more militant tactics are counterproductive.

Australia's new left-leaning government has sent a customs boat to the Southern Ocean to document the whalers' activities to potentially pursue an international case against them.

Greenpeace said Saturday that its Esperanza ship needed to turn back for lack of fuel.

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Greenpeace vessel ends pursuit of Japanese whalers
Sydney (AFP) Jan 26, 2008
The Greenpeace vessel trailing Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters to prevent them from killing the giant sea creatures has ended its pursuit, the environmental group said Saturday.

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