Australians unite against whaling in Southern Ocean

Wednesday, January 18, 2006 File:Greenpeace Vessels Esperanza and Arctic Sun.jpg

Japanese whalers take on fuel - Greenpeace
(Image missing from Commons: image; log)

Anti-whaling protesters have joined forces across Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the U.S.A calling for an end to the killing of whales for meat by Japan. Greenpeace organised the international day of action as it continued its efforts to disrupt the hunting of minke whales by the Japanese whaling fleet currently in the Southern Ocean.

The day of action was being marked to protest the actions of the fleet which protesters believe violate the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) global ban on commercial whaling. Japan's JARPA Japanese Whale Research Program was allowed to operate under a Special Permit in the Antarctic according to Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In its JARPA-2 plan, Japan plans to double its annual scientific research catch of Minke whales to 935, and to add 10 Fin whales to its quota. The International Fund for Animal Welfare states that over the next two years, Japan plans to kill 50 endangered Humpback whales and an additional 40 fin whales.

International Anti-Whaling Protesters' Day of Action

Numerous reports of actions taken in Australia and New Zealand focused on public awareness of the Japanese whaling efforts and collecting signatures of people opposed to whaling.


At Sydney's Bondi Beach, anti-whaling campaigners asked bathers to sign a dozen metre-high cardboard whale tails placed in the sand and called for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean. Signatures from a Sydney petition would be added to tens of thousands collected elsewhere in the country. They will be handed to the Australian government and Japanese consulate in June.

Waverley mayor Mora Main urged Japanese tourists who enjoyed whale watching in Australia to pressure their government to end whaling.

In Melbourne, protesters collected hundreds of signatures on a seven metre long fabric whale to take to the Japanese consulate. Campaigner Simon Bradshaw said up to 300 people signed the whale within 15 minutes at Flinders Street station.

"Australia is pretty much unequivocally opposed to the whaling hunt on environmental grounds as well as animal rights grounds," Mr Bradshaw said. "People have been rather disturbed and horrified (by the whaling), so I think they're grateful to be given even a small thing they can do to express their opposition to it."

Signatures were also collected in Brisbane and Hobart. In the Tasmanian capital, about 50 people were applauded by bystanders as they marched through the city centre, chanting slogans and waving placards against whaling. Protest organiser Jessica Sheldrick says it is part of a national day of action in four capital cities to educate people about whaling in Australia's Southern Oceans.

"Basically, we're here to support our activists that are down there endangering their lives, just to save our marine mammals," Ms Sheldrick said. "People are, on the whole, totally in support of Greenpeace's stance in whaling in the Southern Oceans. They don't believe it should be happening."

New Zealand

In New Zealand, whaling has been condemned at an Auckland beach protest. A mock graveyard of black minke whale tails, symbolic of those killed in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, was displayed on an Auckland beach.

Greenpeace New Zealand say the tails represent the more than 900 whales killed by Japan this season. More than 100 people turned up at Mission Bay beach to mark the International Day of Action against Whaling. Around 250 wooden whale tails were placed in the sand and a giant whale tail of sand was made on the beach by children and their parents.

The New Zealand Greens Party say diplomatic measures have failed to stop the whaling and the government should explore legal options, including the Antarctic Treaty which allows observers to inspect research ships.

Whaling conflict in the Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean Sanctuary was designated by the IWC as a sanctuary for whales in 1994.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986, in line with an international moratorium, yet resumed whaling the following year for what it says is "scientific research". Japan's whaling program includes fin and humpback whales, both of which are on the World Conservation Union's list of threatened species.

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research says its whaling is legal and scientifically necessary for sustainable resource management.

International Whaling Commission rules permit the research hunt, but Australia and other anti-whaling countries say it is commercial whaling in disguise as the meat collected from the "research" is later sold in Japan. Critics say Japan is off-loading whale meat for consumption in restaurants and supermarkets.

International views of whaling today

Meanwhile, Australia, Britain, Brazil, France and Germany were among 17 countries calling on Japan this week, to halt to its Antarctic whaling program. "The fact that 17 countries supported this representation, shows how important this issue is, and the depth of feeling around the world," British fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw said in a statement.

The statement calls on Japan to "cease all its lethal scientific research on whales," and was delivered to Japan's foreign and farm ministries.

"We urge Japan to reconsider its positions and end this unjustified and unnecessary slaughter which is regarded by many countries as a means to by-pass the IWC (International Whaling Commission) moratorium," Bradshaw said.

Other signatories of the statement were Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Japans view of the issues

Japan opposes a ban on whaling, insisting it is part of the country's traditional culture, and has continued to hunt whales for scientific research since the International Whaling Commission introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

More than 6,800 Antarctic Minke Whales have already been killed in Antarctic waters since Japan began its Whale Research Program 18 years ago. Meat from whales killed for research is later consumed at Japanese restaurants.

The Japanese government has defended its whaling activities, saying that whales are caught for research purposes only. They have also said that they are not breaking international law, in a statement issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe.

"I understand that Japan's research whaling follows international rules and is done for the purpose of research on whales' ecosystem," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the government spokesman, told reporters.

The Japanese whaling industry's Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) claim serious violations of maritime laws during the recent anti-whaling actions. "Already, there are serious violations that provide reasons for concern in terms of safety and international maritime law," ICR director-general Dr Hiroshi Hatanaka said in a statement.

The ICR said Greenpeace had not stopped the whaling fleet from conducting its research. "The issue of sound management and sustainability of whale stocks are far too important to be sidetracked by a D grade public relations campaign," Dr Hatanaka said.

Gavin Carter, an adviser to the ICR, a nonprofit Japanese research organisation, said Japanese quotas for whale kills are well below the mammals' reproductive rates.

"The purpose of this research," said Mr Carter, "is to create a knowledge bank, which the government can then use to facilitate a regulated whaling industry." Mr Carter urged critics of commercial whaling to be sensitive to other nations' cultural differences, noting that Japanese have "used whales for centuries. They eat the whole thing. They use every part. Who are we to tell them what to eat, or what not to kill?" he asked.

Inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ships - the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza - hinder the transfer of a dead minke whale from the Japanese whaling fleet catcher ship Kyo Maru No.1 to the Nisshin Maru factory ship. (Image Credit:© Greenpeace / Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

Green Peace's actions

The Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise has been shadowing the Japanese whaling fleet for several weeks in a bid to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt, prompting many heated exchanges. Canadian activist Texas Constantine was thrown out of a small inflatable boat that had been manoeuvring between a harpooner and a minke whale. He spent several minutes in the icy waters before being hauled back on board.

The harpoon killed the minke whale and its tow rope threw into the water Greenpeace activist Joe Constantine, who was able to climb back aboard the boat to safety, the environmental watchdog said.

"We were out defending the whales. We had been out there for about an hour. I was driving our boat and we were in a good position and the whaler fired its harpoon," Constantine said in a statement. "All of a sudden the harpoon line came down on us trapping us between the whale and the catcher," he said. "The line came tight at that point and threw me from the boat into the water. It was a few minutes before our boat was able to come over and pick me up out of the water."

The Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo accused Greenpeace of taking increasing risks in harassing the whaling fleet. "The fact that the rope fell onto their inflatable and one of the activists fell into the water is entirely their fault," the institute's director general Hiroshi Hatanaka said Sunday.

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