Australia says no to protecting Japanese whale hunters

Does not buy country’s argument that it is whaling for scientific reasons

By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Thursday 08 December 2011

Australia has refused to provide any security cover for Japan’s annual whale hunt in the Antarctic waters. Facing opposition from biodiversity conservation groups in the ocean, Japan had asked Australia to send its navy to protect its whaling fleet.

Commercial whaling is banned since 1986 when the International Whaling Commission put a moratorium on it. But Japan engages in annual whale hunt taking advantage of a loophole in the International Convention for the  Regulation of Whaling which has an exception that allows whaling for scientific purposes. “Australia does not buy Japan's argument that its whaling in the Southern Ocean is for scientific reasons,” said Tony Burke the country’s environment minister in a statement on December 7. “You don't travel from one side of the globe to the other to harpoon whales and chop them up in the name of science,” he added. Therefore, Australia has no plans to send any navy or customs vessel to the Southern Ocean, Burke said.

In October, Australia and New Zealand reiterated their demand that Japan should reconsider whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

Three ships from Shimonoseki city in western Japan set sail for whale hunting on December 6. The fleet, which leaves every year in November or December, returns in March. The fleet aims to catch about 900 whales this season, according to a plan submitted by the government to the International Whaling Commission. Reportedly, an unspecified number of coastguards have also left with the Japanese ships to beef up the security in the sea.

But anti-whaling groups like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an international non-profit, are ready for a face-off. “We would continue harassing Japanese whalers if they returned to the Antarctic sanctuary,” Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd told news agency AFP. The Sea Shepherd volunteers will set sail in a week on three ships. The organisation has been opposing whale harpooning by hurling stink bombs and blocking the way of Japan’s ships for the past six years. The “scientific purpose” argument is a cover up for commercial whaling, he said. (See Defiant Japan to hold annual whale hunt)

Environmental organisations also say that Japan should use the money spent on harpooning whales and providing security cover to the whaling fleet, in helping the victims of Japan’s tsunami and earthquake disaster. According to Greenpeace, the Japanese government is spending an extra $30million for the whale hunt, on top of its $10 million subsidy to the whaling industry. Reportedly, the extra money has come from the earthquake relief fund.



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