December 22, 2005

Australia’s Greens want Japanese whalers watched

By Michelle Nichols

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia should send a navy ship to
monitor a Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean,
Australia's minority Greens party said on Friday, as the
Japanese ships kept trying to fend off Greenpeace protesters.

Greens leader Bob Brown and Greenpeace also called for
Australia to stop one of the six Japanese ships -- due to
arrive in the southern city of Hobart on Saturday to deliver a
sick crew member to hospital -- from returning to the fleet.

Two Greenpeace ships have challenged the Japanese whaling
fleet in the icy waters near the coast of Antarctica by
deploying inflatable craft to harass the "catcher boats,"
positioning them between the whale and harpoon gun.

Brown, who planned to join a protest in Hobart on Saturday,
said the Japanese people needed to be made aware of what the
whaling fleet were doing.

"If we had a naval surveillance ship down there we'd be
able to do that," he told Australian television.

"Remember, (the Australian) government has impounded scores
of Indonesian fishing boats. It's spent millions chasing pirate
ships. But when it comes to this piracy of whales in our
waters, it seems to be sitting on its hands."

Prime Minister John Howard's office declined to comment on
Brown's remarks or his call for a navy ship to monitor the
whaling fleet.

Australia is a staunch critic of Japan's whaling program,
and Howard reiterated his opposition in a meeting with Japanese
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the margins of a regional
summit in Malaysia last week.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 in line with an
international moratorium and began what it calls a research
program the following year. Critics said the programme was a
disguised commercial hunt for meat for upscale restaurants.

Despite international disapproval, Tokyo announced in June
plans to nearly double its annual catch of minke whales to 850
and add fin whales and eventually humpbacks -- two types of
whales conservationists say whose survival is threatened.
Greenpeace, which tracked down the whaling fleet after a
month-long search, and the Japanese fleets accused each other
on Thursday of ramming each others' vessels.