February 25, 2010

Australia Desires End To Scientific Whaling

Australia wants to phase out harpooning of whales in the Southern Ocean over the next five years and is calling for an end to "scientific whaling".

The demands, aimed at Japanese whalers, were outlined in a proposal sent to the International Whaling Commission, said Environment Minister Peter Garrett. Australian officials threatened to take legal action against Japan over its whaling practices if principle conservation objectives cannot be secured by negotiation.

The proposal to end whaling within a "reasonable period", and the five-year timeline to stop Antarctic whaling, is reflected by Australia's strong conservation efforts and is aimed to reopen talks that have been sidelined for too long, said Garrett.

"That is why we have now brought forward this new proposal to advance true conservation objectives, and specifically to bring about an end to commercial and so-called scientific whaling right around the world," he said.

Australia plans on advancing its proposal at a meeting in Florida next week of the IWC's small working group, according to Garrett. "However, if Australia's principled conservation objectives cannot be secured in the negotiations, Australia will initiate legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) before the next Southern Ocean whaling season," Garrett told AFP.

Under the proposal, whaling would not be permitted on any species or populations currently not being hunted, species listed as vulnerable would immediately cease, and harpooning would be barred in sanctuaries. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd warned Japan directly that it had until November to reduce its whale catch to zero, or it would face action.

Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, in a visit to Australia last weekend, made it clear that Japan would meet any challenge head-on and seek to prove its activities are in fact legal.

Japanese whalers, under current guidelines, operate under an international loophole that allows them to carry out "lethal research". However, Australia and New Zealand have been actively seeking to stop the unnecessary killing of hundreds of whales each year.

There should be "total and permanent elimination of all whaling other than current aboriginal subsistence whaling within a reasonable timeframe," the proposal stated. The proposal also argues for an "agreed mechanism and a strategy to ensure a robust and properly funded monitoring, compliance and enforcement framework for whaling during the phase-out period."

Both Japan and Australia are hoping for a diplomatic solution to their deadlock on whaling. 


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