Japanese Whale Hunt In The Southern Ocean Faces Opposition
January 1, 2013

Southern Ocean Whale Hunt Condemned By Australia

April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

A battle is brewing over whaling in the Southern Ocean between Australia and Japan. Australia's Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has reiterated his government's strong opposition to Japan's "scientific whaling" program, dismissing claims that the expeditions have any scientific research merit.

"There is nothing scientific about going out and chasing whales, aiming a harpoon at them, so that you can pull them in and chop them up for food," said Mr. Burke on Saturday.

According to The Australian newspaper, the government will lobby Japan to respect a moratorium on Southern Ocean whaling, taking "all diplomatic action that a government can take."

"The Australian government condemns all commercial whaling, including Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling," Burke said. "It is particularly offensive that Japan's whaling will take place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission. We will keep working to achieve a permanent end to all commercial whaling."

However, Burke also said that the Australian government will not respond to coalition calls for a customs vessel to monitor the annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean.

"The information that we have on the way Japan has alternated this each year is that in all likelihood they'll be in the New Zealand search-and-rescue zone anyway," he said.

Greg Hunt, opposition environment spokesman, wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, claiming that the presence of an Australian vessel was vital in case of any clashes between Japanese whalers and the anti-hunt group, Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is a marine wildlife conservation organization dedicated to ending the destruction of habitat and the slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans. Founded in 1977, SSCS uses direct-action tactics to expose and confront illegal activities on the oceans.

"There is a real risk of conflict or collision causing injury, death or a major environmental spill in the event of a sinking," Mr. Hunt said. The AFP news agency reports that SSCS has vowed to stop the hunt and has four ships bound for the Southern Ocean themselves. A court in the U.S. has ordered the SSCS vessels to stay at least 500 yards from the Japanese fleet.

Adam Bandt, Greens acting leader, says the government should be seeking an injunction to stop the whaling.

"The government says it wants to do something about it and has commenced proceedings in the court, but it hasn't done the simple thing that would actually stop the whaling, and that is go off and seek an injunction," Mr Bandt told The Australian.

In 2010, Australia started legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice. Both countries have filed detailed written arguments to the court, and an oral hearing has been set for some time next year in The Hague. This year, New Zealand joined the case with Australia.

"In the interim it is open to Japan any day of the year to take the same action that the rest of the world has taken and that is to observe a moratorium in the Southern Ocean. That is to accept that commercial whaling is wrong and 'scientific whaling' is a joke," Burke told CBS News.

"We cannot continue to have a situation where everybody knows it's nothing to do with science and yet, with a nod and a wink, Japanese fleets travel from one side of the globe to the other to engage in this, and to break the moratorium year after year," he added.

This step was not taken lightly, according to Attorney-General Nicola Roxon.

"The Australian government considers Japan's whaling program is contrary to its international obligations and should stop," Ms Roxon told The Australian.

"The International Court of Justice is an appropriate forum for a resolution for this issue," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.

"We're matching words with action in pursuing this matter before the court. And we do so with the support of the majority of nations in our region and around the world."

Three vessels left from the far-western port of Shimonoseki this past Friday, according to Kyodo News. Greenpeace said the mother ship left another western port. This year, the Japanese fleet intends to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 find whales between now and March.

Confirmation of the annual whaling hunt has not been officially reported to the Australian government, not that they expected it to be.

"Last year there was no stage when the Japanese government actually confirmed its whaling fleet was heading south," Mr Burke said.