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Taiji fishermen worried Sea Shepherd's settlement means more trouble for them

TAIJI, Wakayama -- An announcement by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) Aug. 23 that the U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society had reached a court-mediated settlement in a U.S. federal district court that permanently bans the conservationist group from obstructing the activities of Japan's "research whaling" ships has made fishermen nervous in this town known for its whale and dolphin hunts.

"Now that Sea Shepherd cannot interfere with whaling ships in the Southern Antarctic Ocean, we're concerned they might become more involved in activities here," a source close to the local town fisheries cooperative said.

Open season on cetacean drive hunting, in which the animals are herded into a bay and killed, starts on Sept. 1 in Taiji. According to the town's fisheries cooperative, in the past few years, the anti-whaling group has arrived in Taiji on this day to protest the hunt.

"We heard about the settlement through news reports," Yoshifumi Kai of the Taiji fisheries cooperative said. "There wasn't that great a disruption involving our hunt last season, but we can expect more members of the anti-whaling group coming to our town this coming season, so we hope to be prepared."

According to the fisheries cooperative, the season for drive hunting of dolphins lasts until the end of February, and the hunting of short-finned pilot whales until the end of April. The Taiji Isana Union plans to send out 12 boats for the hunts.

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