The owners of the container ship NYK ORION decided to offload seven containers of meat from endangered fin whales rather than carry on with trade in an endangered species.
"Today Greenpeace was able just in time to prevent this shipment of whale meat from continuing, such action should no longer be necessary," said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Pavel Klinckhamers.
Greenpeace activists attach themselves to the mooring ropes of the NYK ORION in Rotterdam. (Photo by Gerard Til courtesy Greenpeace)
"The Dutch authorities must ensure that whale meat never again comes to the Rotterdam harbor," he said. "They must work to end the whale meat trade."
Early this morning, 15 Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the mooring ropes of the NYK ORION to prevent the container ship from leaving port.
Greenpeace's actions against the shipment combined with the support of workers at the Rotterdam port resulted in the containers being removed from the vessel.
The 15 activists unchained themselves after the whale meat at issue was unloaded. Seven Greenpeace activists were arrested as a result of today's protest and are expected to be released shortly.
The container ship NYK ORION is owned by the Japanese company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha based in Tokyo. The NYK Group is a comprehensive logistics and transportation provider with services by ocean, land, and air.
The NYK Group had no immediate comment on the incident. In general, the company takes a pro-active position on environmental conservation saying it is implementing three medium-term strategies aimed at realizing "a green and beautiful earth" and passing on "a peaceful society to future generations."
The company said it is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote activities to conserve the global environment, and strengthen group environmental management. No company policy on whaling or the transport of whale meat is stated.
Japan is the world's most active whaling nation and the government promotes the consumption of whale meat to the Japanese people.
The fin whale can grow to 27 meters in length and is the second largest whale alive, after the blue whale.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classes this whale species as Endangered and gives a rough total estimate of about 53,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic ocean in the year 2000.
International trade in fin whales and other whales is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES. The Netherlands is one of the 175 signatories to this treaty.
Japan and Iceland refuse to comply with the CITES ban and continue to trade in whale meat.
The head office of Greenpeace International is based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and today's action was aimed not only at the Japanese shipping company but also at the Dutch government.
"The Netherlands has to be clear about its position," said Klinckhamers. Does it want to have a hand in the transit of illicit whale meat?"
"We want to send a clear message," he said. "If the Netherlands is involved in whale trade, it is jointly responsible for the unacceptable downfall of this endangered species."
At the annual International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco in June, member governments are expected to vote on lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling that has been in place since 1986.
Supporters of the return to commercial whaling, such as Japan, say it would reduce the number of whales being hunted. But continuation of the ban is supported by many governments, including the United States, the European Union and Australia, as well as Greenpeace and other environmental groups.
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