Japan to hunt 950 whales for "scientific research"

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Minke whale, Japan's fleet has a quota of 940 to catch
10 Fin Whales are on the Japanese Whaling fleet's quota

The Japanese whaling fleet is reportedly heading into the seas around Antarctica, drawing widespread condemnation from campaigners. Japan's fleet of six ships left the port of Shimonoseki, western Japan with a quota of 940 minke whales and 10 fin whales.

Calls for the Australian government to intervene have been rejected by the environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell. Japan's whaling program, which is claimed to be for scientific purposes, is expected to kill nearly one thousand whales this season.

"Japan's attempt to dress up its commercial whaling as science is an insult to modern science," said International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Director of Wildlife and Habitat. "It's time for the Japanese Government to respect the rest of the world - It's time to stop whaling." A Greenpeace statement dismisses the assertion of the Japanese government that whales are contributing to the collapse of fish stocks.

Senator Rachel Siewrt, spokesperson on marine matters for the Green Party said, "Mr Campbell can't answer a simple question on whether or not the Government plans to take any one of a number of legal and diplomatic actions open to it."

Legal action open to the Australian government includes invoking provisional measures under the auspices of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. These measures would — in effect — be an injunction preventing whaling from being started within the 14 days following.

In December, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will engage the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Sea Shepherds say the Japanese whale kill is illegal. They will be acting in accordance with the United Nations World Charter for Nature in their intervention. The groups objective is to "hunt down the Japanese whaling fleet and harass, block, obstruct, and intervene against their illegal whaling operations."

According to Sea Shepherd: "The Japanese are violating the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. They are violating the International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling. They are targeting endangered fin and humpback whales that are protected under the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna. They are also in violation of the Australian laws protecting the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters."

International Fund for Animal Welfare condemns what it calls a "mass killing program — a defiance of international criticism and a global ban on commercial whaling — as commercial whaling disguised as science." IFAW urges the Australian Government to take Japan to the international courts to bring this program to an immediate halt.

Japan plans to kill over 900 minke whales and ten fin whales during the next six months as part of its whaling program, JAPRA II, marking a sharp escalation in Japan's whaling activities. "It is a dark day for some of the world's most magnificent creatures. Let's be under no illusion—this is commercial whaling in disguise. The Australian Government must respond swiftly by taking legal action to stop the boats in their tracks," said IFAW Marine Campaigner Darren Kindleysides.

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Southern Ocean whaling season (2005-2006)

Leading international law expert, Professor Don Rothwell, has advised IFAW that the Japanese Government is breaching international laws with JARPA II. He has advised that the Australian Government has very strong grounds to take Japan to in the International Law of the Sea to stop "scientific" whaling. Japan is targeting whales that are listed as endangered.

He argues that Japan's plans to double its whale take are an abuse of its legal right. "The number of whales that Japan purports to take is not commensurate with the number of whales that would be necessary to engage in scientific research," he said. "There's also increasing evidence that non-lethal means can be used to take data from whales to obtain information about whaling stocks."