How To Accidentally Stop Whaling

Greenpeace protests with cute little stunts. The Sea Shepherd throws slick bombs and tries to foul props. And, so far, nothing has stopped the Japanese practice of "scientific" whaling. But now, an unlikely turn of events just might accomplish what years of efforts have failed to do: stop the Japanese fleet from catching whales.

And we have obnoxious tourists to thank for it.

The amazing spectacle of the icy continent attracts thousands of tourists a year who view their frozen surroundings from the comfort of warm, cozy cruise cabins. In the past few years, however, cruise ships have been sinking around Antarctica. It happened often enough that the United Nations decided it was time to step in, and worked up some new regulations to protect passengers and crews who enter the unpredictable antarctic waters as well as the creatures who live in them.

Specifically, the UN's International Marine Organization has imposed new requirements for any vessel traveling or working south of 60 degrees S. The regulations include a cessation of using heavy oil, which, when spilled, is devastating, a mandatory double hull, and a limit on the amount of waste that ships can dump into the antarctic waters. And while the regulations were aimed at cruise ships, they've had a completely wonderful side effect: the Japanese fleet's only factory whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru, currently is in violation of every one of them.

For you Whale Wars fans, you know what the Nisshin Maru does. It's where the whales caught by the harpoon ships are brought to be processed into sellable whale meat. It's the heart of the fleet, which is why it's so readily targeted by the Sea Shepherds - if they can find it. In short, if this ship cannot sail, whaling stops. Which is exactly what appears might happen, at least temporarily, as these new regulations go into effect.

If the regulations are upheld, the Nisshin Maru's fuel will be illegal, its hull too weak, and its annual dumping of thousands of tons of leftover whale carcasses too much. For Japan, who otherwise works hard to comply to international shipping regulations, the loss will be costly.

For those who wish to see and end to the Japanese practice of "scientific" whaling, the news is wonderful. Finally, it seems, someone might have accidentally found a way to shut down the whaling fleet, at least for awhile. And if these regulations do hold, the next season will be the first in 20 years when the whales of the Antarctic will have a break. However, the regulations aren't set in stone, and will Japan's influence in the UN, it's possible that exceptions for the whaling fleet may be made.

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