Japanese Whaling Supply Ship Found Guilty of Conservation Violations
The Japanese whaling fleet supply ship Oriental Bluebird has been de-flagged and fined by the Panamanian Registry after being found guilty of:
- Using the ship for purposes it was not licensed for (i.e. carrying whale meat rather than oil)
- Violating the MARPOL convention (a treaty designed to eliminate the deliberate, negligent or accidental release of oil and other harmful substances from ships into the marine environment) after illegally re-fuelling whaling vessels in Antarctic waters.
The illegal operations of the Oriental Bluebird underscore the illegality of the entire Japanese whaling fleet. Japanese whalers are targeting endangered whales in the legally established Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling.
It is also a violation of the Antarctic treaty to refuel ships at sea in the area protected under the treaty. Japanese vessels have been violating the treaty for years while undertaking their illegal whaling operations off the coast of Antarctica.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has had numerous confrontations with the Oriental Bluebird since 2005 including chasing the vessel out of the Antarctic treaty zone for unlawfully refueling the Japanese registered factory ship Nisshin Maru.
Because the Japanese government is a signatory to the MARPOL treaty, t he Panamanian ruling against the Oriental Bluebird means that Japan cannot legally continue to use it for the whaling program, even if it is reflagged. MARPOL bars Japan from allowing a ship to participate in the exploitation of any marine resource for three years, even if that ship has changed its flag after being found in breach of international conservation measures.
The whaling fleet, including the Oriental Bluebird is currently berthed in Shimonoseki, Japan and is due to depart on its so-called scientific whale hunt to the Southern Ocean in the next few weeks. The Japanese fleet would of course be seriously compromised without a supply ship to offload the thousands of tons of illegal whale meat from the Nisshin Maru. Sea Shepherd anticipates that the whalers will utilize the Oriental Bluebird nonetheless under either the Japanese flag or another flag of convenience.
It is also reported that the Japanese government will be investing $8 million U.S. dollars to send a Japanese Coast Guard gunboat down to the Southern Oceans this year to defend illegal whaling activities. This will also be a violation of the Antarctic Treaty that prohibits armed military forces from operating in the treaty zone.