The promised release of three activists who boarded a Japanese whaling ship a few days ago signals a victory for behind-the-scenes diplomacy with Australia.
Japan announced it was suspending its annual whale hunt in the strongest sign yet that direct action from groups like Sea Shepherd and weak consumption of whale meat in Japan are having an impact on whaling.
Financial pressures, clashes with the Sea Shepherd antiwhaling activists, and a drop in the demand for whale meat are contributing to the delayed whaling ship departure.
A court in Japan gave Sea Shepherd activist Peter Bethune a suspended two-year jail term Wednesday. During last winter's annual 'whale wars,' he sneaked onto a whaling ship to try to arrest its captain for sinking the Ady Gil speedboat.
Whaling talks: Japanese officials and environmentalists traded blame Wednesday as nations failed to reach a deal to curb whale hunts.
Commercial whaling: Japan officials say withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission could happen if ban on commercial whaling continues.
An Obama plan to allow a few nations to continue hunting whales would sanction a sorry practice. But in exchange it would buy time for the majestic creatures to continue recovering in number and for outdated culinary attitudes to shift.