he Panamanian ruling against the Oriental Bluebird means that Japan cannot legally continue to use it for the whaling program, even if it is reflagged. MARPOL bars Japan from allowing a ship to participate in the exploitation of any marine resource for three years, even if that ship has changed its flag after being found in breach of international conservation measures.

The whaling fleet, including the Oriental Bluebird is currently berthed in Shimonoseki, Japan and is due to depart on its so-called scientific whale hunt to the Southern Ocean in the next few weeks. The Japanese fleet would of course be seriously compromised without a supply ship to offload the thousands of tons of illegal whale meat from the Nisshin Maru. Sea Shepherd anticipates that the whalers will utilize the Oriental Bluebird nonetheless under either the Japanese flag or another flag of convenience.

It is also reported that the Japanese government will be investing $8 million U.S. dollars to send a Japanese Coast Guard gunboat down to the Southern Oceans this year to defend illegal whaling activities. This will also be a violation of the Antarctic Treaty that prohibits armed military forces from operating in the treaty zone.