This just in from the Japanese Government's whaling spokespersons in Tokyo:
The Institute of Cetacean Research, in conjunction with Kyodo Senpaku and the Government of Japan, said today the Antarctic whale research program for the 2006/2007 austral summer season will be cut short as a result of a fire aboard the research mother vessel, the Nisshin Maru.
Glenn Inwood, who represents the Institute of Cetacean Research, says the ships will be back in the Antarctic at the end of the year.
Greenpeace says it will continue to put pressure on Japan to permanently stop its whaling program after the country abandoned the remainder of this year's hunt.
A spokesperson for the organization said,
"That the whalers are finally on the move is a relief - after nine long days of risk to the pristine Antarctic environment. We're ready to escort the fleet out of Antarctic waters."
Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief executive officer Steve Shallhorn says, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the decision will save around 500 whales.
"As much as we applaud the decision, we don't believe there was much choice in the matter," he said.
"What remains to be seen is whether Japan will do the right thing and that is retire this decrepit old vessel and not replace it.
"Clearly that would be the favoured view of most countries and most peoples across the world."
Shallhorn says he will still be pressuring the Japanese Government not to replace the ship.
"Japan has made the right decision, which is to recall its fleet and to stop whaling for this season," he said.
"It means that about 500 whales will be swimming free."
Australia is vowing to continue the fight to have Japan abandon its annual Antarctic whale hunt.
Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull welcomed the news the hunt was over, saying it meant a large number of minke whales the Japanese had been expected to kill would now be saved.
He vowed Australia would continue its efforts to put a stop to the killing of whales in the name of science.
"The Australian Government will continue to fight with many nations around the world to ensure that scientific whaling ceases," Turnbull said.
The minister said killing the whales was unnecessary for the management of the mammals in the Southern Ocean.
"Management information can be collected using non-lethal research techniques," he said.
The following article is taken from the Telegraph (UK)
Anti-whaling activists declare victory
By Colin Joyce in Tokyo
Anti-whaling activists have declared victory in a battle of the high seas as Japanese hunting vessels returned home early from an expedition in the Antarctic Ocean.
A fire broke out aboard the whaling mother ship, the Nisshin Maru, two weeks ago, killing one crew member and leaving it without power for 10 days.
Japan then announced that the damage made it impossible to continue, although the expedition had only caught half its quota of whales.
The fleet of six vessels was pursued throughout by the radical Sea Shepherd group and the Nisshin Maru was attacked with nail guns, smoke bombs and chemical irritants by the environmental activists.
Japan said yesterday the fleet caught a total of 505 minke whales and three fin whales, well short of its intended 850 minke and 10 fin.
advertisementGreenpeace, whose ships had also chased the Japanese fleet, sent a message to the departing ships telling them never to return.
“This must be the last time your government sends you to the Southern Ocean to hunt whales and threaten the Antarctic environment.
For the sake of the environment, the whales and your crew, never again,” the message read.
Japan exploits a loophole that allows whales to be caught for scientific research despite an International Whaling Commission’s moratorium.
Critics dismiss Japan’s “research” as merely a cover for a policy designed to keep its whaling industry alive while it pushes for a return to commercial whaling.
Whale meat from the catch is processed and sold as a delicacy at restaurants and markets.
The Japanese fisheries ministry said that it was the first time in 20 years a whaling expedition had to be cut short and said an investigation would be carried out to establish the cause of the fire when the ship returned to Japan.
Tokyo has not blamed the fire on the activists, who deny responsibility, but has not ruled out a connection.