New Zealand blasts Japan for allowing whaling ship to enter its waters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 9:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 12:30am


New Zealand has sharply criticised Japan for failing to order a whaling ship not to enter New Zealand's economic waters as it pursued an anti-whaling vessel operated by protest group Sea Shepherd.

New Zealand said yesterday that Japan ignored requests that it tell the Shonan Maru 2 to steer clear of New Zealand's 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) during the pursuit.

[Our] strong opposition to Japanese whaling [near us] … is well known

The incident comes during heightened tensions over whaling. Last week, a different Japanese whaling ship and a second Sea Shepherd boat collided off Antarctica, with both sides blaming each other for the crash.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Japan's latest actions were "unhelpful, disrespectful and short-sighted" and yesterday summoned Japan's ambassador Yasuaki Nogawa to meet with a government official, who McCully said expressed New Zealand's "deep disappointment".

McCully said New Zealand officials in Tokyo were told by their Japanese counterparts on Thursday that the whaler might enter New Zealand's economic waters.

"The New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo last week made it very clear we did not want members of the Japanese whaling fleet entering our EEZ," McCully said, adding that "New Zealand's strong opposition to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean is well known and further action may be taken."

The Japanese Embassy declined comment yesterday.

Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research, which is funded by the Japanese government, said every vessel has a right to enter another country's economic waters and New Zealand's request for the boat to stay away was not legally enforceable.

He said the Shonan Maru 2 was monitoring the movements of the Sea Shepherd protest boat Steve Irwin following harassment near Antarctica.

"It's important for their own safety to know exactly where the Sea Shepherd pirate vessels are at all times," Inwood said. "Despite the fact that everyone knows they try to ram the Japanese vessels and sink them, this group still has access to New Zealand and Australian ports."

Under the provisions of a United Nations treaty each country has certain sovereign rights over their economic zone.

The UN treaty has been signed by more than 160 countries, including New Zealand and Japan.

But those rights are not as strong as the rights for territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the shore.