Burned out of business, Japan calls a halt to its annual whale hunt

Japan’s whaling fleet, unable to recover from a mid-February fire that killed a crew member and disabled its main ship, has called off its controversial annual hunt a month early. While protesters expressed sympathy for the human loss, they also did a dance of joy that “no more Southern Ocean whales will die from grenade-tipped harpoons this season.” Observers had also feared that the floundering 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru would cause an oil leak off Antarctica, and the government of nearby New Zealand had asked Japan to haul ass outta there. The whalers declined an offer from Greenpeace to tow the ship, managing to restart it this weekend. Since undertaking the hunt in November, the fleet had killed 508 whales — about 350 shy of its goal. “We have been research whaling for 20 years, but this is the first time we have had to cut the expedition short,” said a Fisheries Agency official. “It is very unfortunate.” Happily (for the fleet, not so much the whales), there’s always next year.