Australian government’s response on whaling a worrying sign

Image. c. Sea Shepherd[WARNING: Graphic content] Footage released by Sea Shepherd has well and truly confirmed that whaling is again underway in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  The mass killing has begun despite the pending ruling from the International Court of Justice on the legality of Japan’s so-called “scientific” whaling. Japan risks further damage to its international reputation by pressing ahead with its whaling while the World Court continues its deliberations on the matter.

With Sea Shepherd vessels having now located the Japanese whaling fleet, it won’t be long before we see a return to the now annual spectacle of clashes between the two fleets.

The Japanese fleet has set its sights on 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. Whether Japan kills such numbers remains to be seen but it is clearly intent on ploughing ahead with the brutal slaughter of whales despite global opposition, a struggling market for whale meat and as IFAW’s report demonstrated last year, at the cost of millions of dollars annually to the Japanese taxpayer

The beginning of this year’s whale slaughter has, as usual, seen a flood of media comment but one voice that has remained largely silent has been the Australian Government. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister has already put out a statement condemning scientific whaling, yet not a peep from Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop or Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. This is despite the recent tradition of Australian Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers speaking out on this issue. 

Former Abbott adviser, Terry Barnes, speculated over the holiday period that Environment Minister, Greg Hunt’s anti-whaling instincts were not being supported by cabinet colleagues and so it seems with the current diplomatic silence from the highest echelons of government.

The Australian government has already reneged on an election promise to send a customs vessel to monitor whaling activities in Antarctica, with Minister Hunt announcing a plane would be sent instead. This may not necessarily be a bad thing for Australian Antarctic claims but the diplomatic silence in the wake of the Japanese fleet’s first kill is a further worrying sign of wavering commitment by the Australian government.

As Mr Barnes succinctly put it, Minister Hunt’s colleagues would do well to remember that “while whales don't vote, millions of Australians who want them conserved do”.

You can help us ensure that Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop gets that message loud and clear by sending her an email urging her and Prime Minister Abbott to personally call upon their Japanese counterparts to withdraw the whaling fleet.

-- MC

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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