Japan criticised after whale slaughtered in Australian waters

Australia’s environment minister says government ‘deeply disappointed’ after Sea Shepherd photos show minke whale killing in Antarctic sanctuary
Michael Slezak The Guardian 16 Jan 17;

Australia’s federal environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has criticised Japan following the release of photographs allegedly showing the slaughtering of protected whales inside Australia’s Antarctic whale sanctuary.

Frydenberg’s statement came as conservationists called for tougher action from Australia.

“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Frydenberg said.

“Australia is opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” he said. “It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them.”

The photographs, taken by Sea Shepherd activists from a helicopter, appear to show a dead minke on the deck of the Japanese whaler Nisshin Maru at 11.34am on Sunday.

After the Japanese crew saw the Sea Shepherd helicopter, they covered the harpoons and attempted to hide the whale carcass with a tarpaulin, according to Sea Shepherd.

The images emerged on Sunday afternoon while the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, was in Australia on a state visit.

The slaughter was the first documented killing since the international court of justice ruled Japan’s Antarctic whaling illegal in 2014. So far the Australian government has resisted calls to send official vessels to patrol its waters and intervene in illegal whaling.

But Frydenberg said no country has done more than Australia to try to end whaling.

“We will continue our efforts in the International Whaling Commission to strongly oppose commercial whaling and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, uphold the moratorium on commercial whaling, and to promote whale conservation.”

Jeff Hansen, the managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said a “lack of action by the Turnbull government” in response to the killing of whales in Australian waters on the tail of a state visit from Abe showed “the government has no spine when it comes to protecting the wishes of Australians to defend the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary”.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society director, Darren Kindleysides, said the government must hold Japan to account for its actions.

“Rather than rolling out the red carpet for Japanese prime minister Abe, our government must take every legal and diplomatic avenue available to stop his government’s continued whaling, for example through the United Nations convention on the law of the sea,” he said.

“This year the Japanese whaling fleet is intending to kill 333 Antarctic minke whales under the guise of ‘scientific research’. This is despite the 2014 International Court of Justice ruling that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program was illegal and must stop.

“Japan cannot be allowed to continue to thumb its nose at the international community and the international courts by killing hundreds of whales for the spurious purpose of ‘research’,” Kindleysides said.

Labor’s spokesperson for environment and water, Tony Burke, attacked the killing he said was done “under the guise of ‘scientific research”.

“Japanese whaling ships have been sighted with their harpoons uncovered in the Southern Ocean, where a moratorium on whaling in currently in effect,” he said.

“This is happening in areas Australia recognises as being protected.”

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