More than 150 Chilean children today
celebrated the creation of a Chilean whale sanctuary by President
Michelle Bachelet, with chairman William Hogarth cutting the ribbon to
launch the "whale kingdom" outside the International Whaling Commission
meeting in Santiago. The young "Ocean Defenders" also joined tens of
thousands of people worldwide calling on Japan's government to release
two Greenpeace whale activists currently held without charge in Tokyo
for exposing a stolen whale meat scandal within the Japanese
government's Southern Ocean whaling programme.
President Bachelet signed the Chilean whale sanctuary bill in the former
whaling town of Quintay, joined by 20 young Greenpeace Ocean Defenders
project members, and government ministers from four countries;
Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, New Zealand's environment
minister Steve Chadwick, Lord Rooker, UK Minister for Sustainable Food
and Farming and Animal Health and Roberto Dobles Mora, Costa Rican
Minister of Environment and Energy.
"The creation of the Chilean sanctuary is a great step forward for whale
conservation in Latin America, especially as the IWC is currently
discussing the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary", said
Greenpeace Chile whales campaigner Samuel Leiva. "Now it's up to the IWC
members to take president Bachelet's example, and modernize the
organisation into one that works for the whales, not the whalers."
Japanese activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki were arrested in Tokyo
on Thursday, during a heavy-handed police operation involving raids on
the Greenpeace Japan office and the homes of a number of Greenpeace
staff. Both had already offered to present themselves to police and had
submitted written statements describing how they obtained evidence of a
major whale meat theft scandal. This evidence included a box of whale
meat that had been smuggled off the whaling factory ship, Nisshin Maru,
disguised as crew members' personal possessions for black market sale,
at the expense of the Japanese taxpayer.
"It's appalling that Japan's delegation is attending an IWC meeting
aimed at healing division within the organisation, while the Japanese
government holds Junichi and Toru in custody for exposing the whale meat
scandal and corruption at the heart of the whaling industry." said Karen
Sack, Head of Oceans for Greenpeace International. "Japan needs to end
its sham scientific whaling programme in the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary now, if it is to retain international credibility".
Greenpeace has launched an international on-line petition directed at
Japan's Prime Minster, Fukuda, appealing for him to intervene to end
this heavy-handed charade and order the release of the activists. Within
48 hours of the petition's launch, some 76,000 people had sent messages
to Japanese embassies worldwide.