There are reports in Japan that a ceasefire, albeit temporary, may be called in the annual whale wars in the Southern Ocean between Japan and militant environmentalists. A report in a leading Japanese newspaper suggests the country’s fisheries agency may suspend the so-called ‘scientific research’ because the fleet’s aging factory ship needs urgent repairs. But late today the agency said it hopes to refit the ship in time for this year’s hunt.

A report in a leading Japanese newspaper suggests that the country’s Fisheries Agencies may suspend the so-called scientific research because the fleet’s ageing factory ship needs urgent repairs. But late today the Agency said it hopes to refit the ship in time for this year’s hunt.

Greenpeace says the ageing mothership is another reason to shut the loss-making whaling program down, and it’s accusing the Japanese government of siphoning tsunami reconstruction funds into whaling to keep the hunt afloat.

North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Tokyo.

(Sound of alarm)

MARK WILLACY: They’ve become annual battles waged on the high seas in one of the most remote stretches of ocean in the world.

(Sound of people on whaling boat as alarm sounds)

So far the whale wars have seen the sinking of a trimaran, a number of injuries from flying stink bombs and flares, and a reduced catch for the Japanese whalers.

One of the main targets of Sea Shepherd activists in the Southern Ocean has been the whaling fleet’s largest ship, its factory vessel the Nisshin Maru. The 18,000-tonne goliath has gone on every so-called scientific mission since Japan began them a quarter of a century ago, but this year it may have to bow out.

JUNICHI SATO: The Asahi news report says that the fisheries agency of Japan is considering not to send the ship to Southern Ocean whaling because Nisshin Maru, the mothership, needs to be repaired.

MARK WILLACY: Junichi Sato is the executive director of Greenpeace Japan, and the report he refers to was in one of the country’s leading newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun. It suggests the fisheries agency is considering suspending this year’s hunt in the Antarctic because the Nisshin Maru needs an urgent refit. Something that could keep the factory ship in port for a while.

The ABC spoke to the fisheries agency, it refused to confirm the report but did tell us the ship does need repairs, the extent of which will be decided at a meeting later this week. But since then the agency has been quoted as saying that it wants to do the refit so that the Nisshin Maru can continue whaling for another decade.

Rachel Siewert is a Senator for the Australian Greens, she believes the Japanese people are sick of pouring money into the loss-making whaling program.

RACHEL SIEWERT: So there’s been an ongoing debate in Japan about the expense of it. There’s growing resistance in Japan to whaling as well. So I think it’s a collection of circumstances and maybe this was the final nail was the aging factory ship.

2012 ABC