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Australia: Conservation groups call on Government to act on Whaling

by Takver - Sydney Indymedia
At a press conference in Sydney a coalition of environment and whale watching groups including Greenpeace, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society International, Project Jonah, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the National Whale Watch Association have again called on the Australian Government to take immediate action to stop whaling by the Japanese whale fleet.

Frank Future, Secretary of the National Whale Watch Association said, "Now that Australia’s Humpback whales are in the line of fire of the Japanese whalers, our $300 million dollar a year whale tourism industry is under direct threat. Whale watch operators are concerned that the fantastic interactions we enjoy today might begin to change as the whales inevitably reassociate vessels with fear and death. It’s not worth the risk."

"If reports that the government are sending the Oceanic Viking to monitor the fleet are true, then we welcome this development. The Oceanic Viking is an ice class vessel that regularly patrols the Southern Ocean and is equipped with surveillance gear. But the government must also increase diplomatic and legal pressure on the Japanese government to stop the whale hunt," said Greenpeace chief executive Steve Shallhorn.

The Oceanic Viking was originally built as a cable laying ship in 1996. It was selected by the Federal Government in 2004 as the new Customs and Fisheries armed patrol vessel for the southern ocean. Oceanic Viking is operated by P&O with a civilian crew and leased by the Australian Government. Modifications to the vessel include sophisticated surveillance equipment, the mounting of two .50 calibre machine guns on its upper decks and the installation of high-speed boarding craft. It has a re-inforced hull for ice conditions and it's purpose is to conduct year-round Fisheries patrols of Australian waters surrounding the remote Heard Island and McDonald Islands in the southern ocean. It contains a fully equiped Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit and doctor, as well as Customs and Fisheries boarding parties, and a civilian steaming party responsible for sailing apprehended vessels to Australia.

Steve Shallhorn said, "If Prime Minister Rudd is serious about protecting these whales, he should speak directly to the Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda about Australia’s scientific, economic and environmental concerns. The Government should lead an international protest to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to protest Japan’s proposed killing of humpbacks. Any humpback whale meat landed in Japan will be illegal under the CITES treaty,” he said.

The organisations said that to be effective, immediate government action must include:

  • high level direct communication to Japan’s Prime Minister Fukuda, expressing Australia's economic, scientific and environmental concerns;
  • a formal complaint to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES);
  • using Australia's sea and air resources to ensure monitoring and documentation of Japan’s whaling.

Captain Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd Conservation has also called upon the Australian Government to send a ship to monitor the Japanese fleet: "Australia should really be defending the sovereignty of the Australian Antarctic Territory. Why does Australia intervene against toothfish poachers in these same waters and seize their vessels but does nothing about the killing of the whales? Is Australian law applicable only to poor nations like Uruguay and Indonesia?" said Watson. "We cannot afford another charade of diplomatic posturing that the Japanese government laughs off. Don't you see that by targeting these humpbacks they are slapping the Australian people in the face and saying, 'we will do whatever we wish in your territorial waters and your government has not got the guts to stop us.'"

The Labor Government pledged to stop whaling before the election : "Labor will pursue a permanent end to all commercial and scientific whaling and the establishment of a global whale sanctuary," and "Labor will pursue legal action against whaling nations before international courts and tribunals to end the slaughter of whales for all time."


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