Nasty Nippon's whaling plans were not going smoothly this year. The fleet left its home port weeks late. It had planned to hunt whales until mid-March, but it's had an absolutely disastrous season with Sea Shepherd shadowing it from Day One.
Bob Barker is still tailing Nisshin Maru. The factory ship is now in the Drake Passage - between the southern tip of Sth.America and Antarctica - 2,000 nautical miles away from its hunting grounds. At this rate, they'll just carry on sailing east and eventually hit Japan! The three harpooners are unaccounted for, but these are unable to kill whales without NM to process them.
In recent years, the whalers' bag has been well below their quota: last year's fleet returned in shame with only half its limit. And this season, SS estimates the fleet's been able to kill only 30-100 whales - about a tenth of its target!
Meanwhile the NZ government is seeking confirmation of the announcement from Japan, and Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson is also cautious of the report: "If that's true then it demonstrates that our tactics, our strategies have been successful."
I do hope this is a genuine sign that Japanese decision-makers have recognised there is no future for whaling in the 21st Century. And by actually making this withdrawal permanent, they would not only save their government millions in 'prop-up' money, but also begin to salvage their country's reputation.
Ultimately, the decision to end whaling for good will take place not in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean, nor in the World Court or the International Whaling Commission but in the halls of power in Tokyo, Oslo and Reykjavik - where money talks.