Map exposes Japan’s whalers operating in protected zone
A MAP has exposed the movements of Japanese whalers in a protected marine zone in Antarctica, where they've slaughtered at least 50 minke whales.
Vessels have carried out a five-week harpoon kill in the pristine environmental sanctuary, targeting minke whales they say are used for scientific research.
But international groups say the whales are sold for meat in Japan - a lucrative but controversial market.
At the opening day of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Brazil this morning, the conservation group WWF released a map that shows whaling activity inside the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area.
Red dots show the sighting positions of Antarctic minke whales before they were killed. The lines are the search paths of three Japanese whaling ships.
The zone spans 1.55 million sq km and is the world's largest protected area, but Japan uses a science loophole to hunt whales there.
"The Ross Sea MPA is supposed to have special protection from human activities to safeguard a wealth of Antarctic wildlife," senior manager of WWF's Antarctic program Chris Johnson said.
"People around the world who celebrated this historic ocean sanctuary will be shocked by the killing of whales within its boundaries."
The group has lobbied the IWC to close the loophole and end whaling activity in the Southern Ocean sanctuary.
"It is a travesty that Japan can go into an ocean sanctuary and harpoon whales," Mr Johnson said.
"Only the IWC can close the loophole that enables whales to be harpooned in a protected area."
Fishing and the harvest of krill is banned in the area due to its protected status, so the slaughter of whales there is an international travesty, WWF argues.
The Ross Sea zone came into force at the end of last year.
The map released today shows Japan's hunting activity during the season, which ran from late January to late February this year.
"WWF collaborates with researchers designing and implementing nonlethal ways to study whales," the group said.
"Early this year, the first-ever 'whale cam' was deployed on an Antarctic minke whale by Dr Ari Friedlaender and WWF to study their feeding behaviour."