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March 8, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Australia Seeks to Harpoon Scientific Whaling

No stabby stabby!

The ongoing saga involving Japanese Whalers and Sea Shepherd activists in the Southern Ocean took a sharp turn last week with intervention from the Australian Government.

A proposal was presented to the International Whaling Council seeking an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean within the next five years, including an end to ‘scientific’ whaling.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has since threatened Japan with legal action should they fail to cease all whaling activities in the Southern Ocean by November.

In early January, the conflict between Japanese Whalers and Sea Shepherd activists became violent when Sea Shepherd trimaran, the Ady Gil, was in pursuit of whalers. Activists on board the Ady Gil reported they were deliberately rammed by the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2.

Following the incident, Sea Shepherd filed piracy charges against Shonan Maru 2 in the Dutch Court, using video footage of the collision as evidence the ramming was a premeditated action.

On 15 February, Ady Gil Captain Pete Bethune climbed aboard the Shonan Maru 2 and issued a citizen’s arrest warrant to their captain, along with a $3 million bill for damage to the Ady Gil. The same week Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada travelled to Australia and met with Rudd to discuss, among other things, the issue of whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Victoria University International Relations Professors Xiaoming Huang says that should Australia and Japan decide to act on legal threats, many factors need to be considered.

“For Japan, whaling is an important economic resource, making the issue both legal and cultural for the international community. For Australia, the difficulty lies in an International Court where they would need to prove they’re more concerned with attacks on environmentalists rather than the practice of whaling itself.”

Huang says that the threat of legal action from Rudd needed to be more ‘action-based’.

“Rather than threaten legal action against the whalers for a political audience, Rudd needs to be more specific in what he plans to do. The Australian Government is more environmentally aware than previous governments, but having whaling remain an environmental issue makes creating a political alliance more difficult.”

Huang says that Bethune, a New Zealand citizen, has forced the New Zealand Government into the issue of whaling in the Southern Ocean. He says while whaling remains a diplomatic issue for New Zealand, forming a political alliance with Australia may help the cause.

“New Zealand by itself is a small nation with little influence on the international community. Whaling does not affect every country, so mobilising political support is tough.

“Australia is in a better position to push the issue with New Zealand.

“Whatever they decide, there needs to be an emphasis on effective measures to stop whaling and a list potential consequences for Japan should they continue.”

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