From: Reuters
Published January 23, 2008 08:22 AM

Greenpeace hopeful of stopping Japan whaling

By Sam Cage

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday it was optimistic Japan would stop hunting whales in the Southern Ocean.

Greenpeace has been trying to stop a six-ship Japanese fleet whaling in the Southern Ocean, and the bad publicity has opened a debate about whaling in Japan, Greenpeace Executive Director Gerd Leipold said.

"I'm optimistic that they may stop whaling in the Southern Ocean. It will be much harder when it comes to around their own waters," Leipold told Reuters at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.

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"For the first time in maybe 5 to 10 years, Japan is on the defensive," Leipold said.

Japan plans to hunt almost 1,000 minke and fin whales for research over the Antarctic summer, but has abandoned the cull of 50 humpback whales after international condemnation and a formal diplomatic protest by 31 nations.

"I think we're quite pleased with what is happening, an opening up in the Japanese media, which is beginning to ask the question, why so much of taxpayers' money is being spent on something that is not essential for our economy and that damages our reputation," Leipold said.

"The fact that they had to withdraw humpack whaling is, I think, a big success," he said. "Young people in Japan don't eat whale meat any more."

Despite a moratorium on whaling, Japan is allowed an annual "scientific" hunt, arguing whaling is a cherished cultural tradition and the hunt is necessary to study whales. Its fleet has killed 7,000 Antarctic minkes over the past 20 years.

For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos, see: http://uk.reuters.com/news/globalcoverage/worldeconomicforum2008

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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