Government accused of breaking election promise over Japanese whaling in Southern Ocean

Updated 2 minutes ago  ABC NEWS

The Federal Government has been accused of breaking an election promise by sending a plane instead of a boat to monitor Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The Government will send an A319 plane to the Southern Ocean during the whaling season, which begins in January and ends in March, in an effort to step up its monitoring of whaling fleets.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the Government is acting in the absence of a decision against whaling by the International Court of Justice.

He says it is important Australia has a monitoring presence in the area given the risk of confrontation between whalers and anti-whaling protesters in order to ensure both parties obey the law.

Minke whales

  • One of the smallest species of baleen whales, growing to nearly nine metres long and a weight of about 10 tonnes.
  • The most abundant baleen whale species and are found in all the world’s oceans.
  • There are an estimated 800,000 worldwide.
  • The common minke and the Antarctic minke are distinguished by size and colour pattern differences.
  • There is also a dwarf minke species.
  • Feed primarily on krill and small fish and can gather in pods of hundreds of whales.
  • Pacific minkes reproduce year-round.
  • Japan has an International Whaling Committee permit to kill about 850 Antarctic minkes for ‘scientific research’.
  • According to the Australian Government, their conservation status is listed as of “least concern”.


“It will be to ensure that there is a presence to make sure that there is no conflict between the parties,” he said.

“It will also be to make sure there is an awareness between the parties that the world is watching.”

In the lead-up to the election the Coalition promised to send a Customs vessel to the area.

Under Australian law, such a vessel would have to turn around any Japanese ship that conducted illegal whaling.

Greens Senator Peter Wish-Wilson says sending a plane will have a limited impact, and the Government has a boat ready-made for such a mission.

“The taxpayers paid $150 million for a purpose-built vessel that’s designed to operate in Antarctic waters,” he said.

“Now at the moment it’s been seconded by Scott Morrison, the Minister for Immigration, to act as a tropical water taxi off Christmas Island.”

Sea Shepherd campaigner Jeff Hansen says a plane will not be able to adequately monitor the situation and that Mr Hunt has broken a pre-election promise to send a boat.

“Hunt put out a clear statement that a Customs vessel needed to be down there; there is no Customs vessel down there,” Mr Hansen said.

“There’s no repercussions for [Japan], their violence will be escalating and that pre-election promise has been broken.

“This sending planes overhead is a really pathetic response and it’s really a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. Sea Shepherd is already doing that job.”

Sea Shepherd campaigners set off for Antarctic waters on Wednesday, saying they expected increased aggression from the Japanese fleet after their harassment tactics kept the cull to a record low last season.

The hunt netted just 103 minke whales, less than half its tally the previous year, and no fin whales, with Japanese authorities blaming “unforgivable sabotage” by activists.

A number of nations have recently warned environmentalists and whalers against taking action that endangers human life.

High-seas clashes between the groups are common and Sea Shepherd – which has sent three ships to the Antarctic this year – regularly pelts the whaling ships with stink bombs, attempts to foul their propellers and manoeuvres vessels between harpoons and whales.

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