Fear for humpbacks as Japan whaling fleet sets sail

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A humpback whale breaches in Jervis Bay, NSW. Photo: Ken Robertson

A Japanese whaling fleet left today for an expedition activists say will for the first time target humpbacks, a perennial favourite among whale-watchers.

The Nisshin Maru, the 8000-tonne flagship of Japan’s whaling fleet, left Shimonoseki port for the Antarctic along with catcher boats around midday, environmental group Greenpeace said, adding that others in the fleet were expected to follow soon.

Japan, which says whaling is a cherished cultural tradition, abandoned commercial whaling in accordance with an international moratorium in 1986, but began the next year to conduct what it calls scientific research whaling.

Greenpeace said its Esperanza campaign ship was in waters off Japan, waiting to intersect the fleet in the coming days to demand that the expedition return home.”