A New Zealand activist who boarded a Japanese whaling vessel in an attempt to stop an annual whale hunt was given a two-year suspended sentence, a Japanese court said on Wednesday.
Regular attempts by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a hardline anti-whaling group, to block the annual whale hunt have sparked anger in Japan, where the government says whaling is an important cultural tradition.
Pete Bethune, a former captain of the Sea Shepherd's high-tech vessel called the Ady Gil, was indicted in April on several criminal counts, including one for carrying a knife when he boarded the vessel in what the activists said was an attempt to conduct a citizen's arrest.
Japan, one of only three countries that now hunt whales, introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium, arguing it had a right to watch the whales' impact on its fishing industry.
Australia, New Zealand and other nations want to ban all whaling and in May, Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in The Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling.
Japanese whalers caught about 500 whales in the Antarctic this season, little more than half the target of 900 after clashes with environmentalists. It says this is part of research which is is needed to understand the life cycles of whales.
Talks to replace the worldwide moratorium with a controlled cull of some species collapsed in June at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting.
Anti-whalers see the hunting of the huge creatures as cruel and unnecessary, while the Japanese government says it is a valued cultural tradition no different from hunting other wild animals. Most of the meat from the hunt ends up on dinner tables.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 07 Temmuz 2010, 16:23