TOKYO, Japan - Japanese newspapers were divided Saturday on whether the nation should continue its whaling programme after calling off a mission this season due to harassment by militant environmentalists.
The country's media were united in condemning harassment by Sea Shepherd which prompted Tokyo on Friday to halt its 2010-2011 whaling mission a month early, calling the group's actions "outrageous" and "unforgivable".
But they differed on whether or how Japan should maintain its whaling programme, which it continues using a loophole to a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows lethal "scientific research" on the sea mammals.
The Nikkei business daily supported the whaling scheme and said that "it was regrettable that research was called off as a consequence of violence."
"It is undesirable to respond in a way that could make the international community think Japan would buckle to demands if they were pushed hard against all reason," it said in an editorial.
"Japan should take a firm stand and carry out investigation on repeated piracy acts in order to secure the safety of research whaling in the future," it said.
The liberal Mainichi Shimbun proposed Japan make "a drastic review (in its policy), including the possibility of freezing research whaling."
"Many Japanese people support continuation of research whaling as they are displeased with the idea of ending it due to 'foreign pressure'," the Mainichi said.
"But people are not consuming whale meat much, undermining the significance of continuing research whaling. A change in the Japanese eating habit poses a tougher problem to research whaling than Sea Shepherd," it said.
The conservative Yomiuri Shimbun said: "What causes worry is the possibility that the halt of the mission (this season) may give anti-whaling groups the impression that 'Japan succumbs to obstructions'".
Japan "needs to make a fresh appeal to the international community about the legitimacy of research whaling," it said in an editorial.
But Yomiuri said Japan may as well consider scaling back whaling in the Antarctic ocean.
The chairman of the International Whaling Commission at a convention last year proposed slashing Antarctic whale culls by Japan in return for resumption of commercial whaling in Japanese coastal waters.
"Considering low demand for whale meat, Japan's whaling policy should be reviewed in line with the IWC proposal," the Yomiuri said.