20 Feb 2011

Japan's whaling programme 'on verge of collapse'

6:17 am on 20 February 2011

Environmental group Greenpeace says Japan's whaling programme is on the verge of collapse.

The Japanese government has ended this season's whale hunt early after taking only about 170 whales, blaming harassment by anti-whaling protesters.

As conservation groups celebrate Japan's early withdrawal from the Southern Ocean, they are suggesting the annual whale hunt may soon be ended for good.

Greenpeace Japan's executive director Junichi Sato says much has been achieved by foreign activists and governments, but the country has also been forced to scale down the programme due to a growing stockpile of whalemeat as the public turns against it.

"Nowadays, a lot of Japanese people especially the younger generation don't want to eat whalemeat ... This is also the Japanese public's decision not only from the pressure outside of Japan."

Mr Sato says he was told two months ago by someone in the whaling programme that the catch would be only about 200 whales this season.

He believes the programme is being crushed by large financial losses and may not be renewed later this year.

However, spokesperson for Japan's scientific whaling programme Glenn Inwood says conservation groups may find the Japanese government bites back harder next year with more aggressive tactics.