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Australia

Australian PM Scott Morrison urged to press Japan’s Shinzo Abe on whaling ‘research’ during first post-war visit

  • Abe will be the first Japanese leader to visit Darwin since it was bombed in the second world war
  • The visit comes just days after the Japanese whaling fleet departed for a ‘scientific’ hunt
PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 11:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2018, 11:05am

Prime minister Scott Morrison is being urged to personally raise Australia’s opposition to Japan’s unjustified “scientific” whaling programme during talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe will today become the first Japanese leader to visit Darwin since Japan’s deadly 1942 bombing of the city. The visit comes just days after the Japanese whaling fleet departed for the Southern Ocean for a “scientific” hunt that could see as many as 333 minke whales killed.

There is growing international opposition to Japan’s whaling after its attempts to lift the global hunting ban failed and the International Whaling Commission agreed a formal position that the country had failed to make a scientific case for killing whales.

Japan fleet catches 177 whales in effort to prove whales are not endangered

Australian Marine Conservation Society director Darren Kindleysides said: “The prime minister needs to be raising our continued opposition to whaling directly with the Japanese prime minster and should be asking that he turn around the Japanese whaling fleet. Australians expect our leaders to be speaking out.”

Nicole Beynon, a whale conservation campaigner at the Humane Society International, said: “As far as we know, the whaling issue has consistently been raised at the prime ministerial level between Australia and Japan and we fully expect it to be raised again.”

A spokesperson for Scott Morrison said: “The prime minister is unable to comment on private conversations with the Japanese prime minister.”

Former Australian Greens leader and environmentalist Bob Brown said it would be “humiliating for Australia if our PM does not confront Abe on his illegal whaling” during the visit.

In a statement, Environment Minister Melissa Price said the Australian government remained “strongly opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, including Japan’s whaling in the southern and North Pacific oceans.”

Nothing scientific about travelling from the northern hemisphere to the southern ocean to harpoon whales
Shadow Environment Minister Tony Burke

Price, who has not ruled out exploring further legal action against Japan, said: “This is a long-term commitment and the government will continue to make its views on this issue very clear to Japan. Australia’s investment in non-lethal whale research in the southern ocean through the commission’s southern ocean research partnership has clearly demonstrated that you do not need to kill whales to study them.”

Shadow Environment Minister Tony Burke said: “There’s nothing scientific about travelling from the northern hemisphere to the southern ocean to harpoon whales, chop them up and put them on plates.

“Japan can see the Australian government has softened its opposition and we are all being played for mugs. It’s about time the Australian government took a stronger stand against whaling.”

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said Japan’s continued whaling activities went against scientific advice, as well as calls for greater protection of oceans.

He said: “It’s difficult to understand when Japan has so much to offer the world it would compromise its potential for goodwill with such an outdated practice.”

“New Zealand is deeply disappointed that whaling continues in the Southern Ocean despite the significant scientific advice against this outdated and unnecessary practice.”

Japan hunts whales under a clause in the IWC treaty that allows for “scientific whaling” outside the global moratorium.

In 2014, Australia successfully fought that programme in the International Court of Justice. But the country restarted a new programme with reduced quotas just two years later.

Japan set to argue its case to end commercial whaling ban as sides set for clash at International Whaling Commission in Brazil

Japan has also altered its legal status with the ICJ that effectively blocks any return to that court.

But legal experts say there is an option for Australia and other countries to use the UN convention on the law of the sea as a legal route.

Rebecca Keeble, Oceania director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said there was growing frustration among campaigners and anti-whaling countries that Japan was ignoring pleas to end its hunts.

“These hunts are cruel and unnecessary and they have been shown to be unlawful,” she said.

“We would like to see further legal action taken. The Australian government has the full details on this and we hope that it will work with other countries to build a strong international case.”

Kindleysides said: “This latest hunt just further demonstrates how little regard Japan has for Australian and international opposition to whaling. If Japan does not feel any diplomatic heat, then that shows that we are allowing them to act with impunity.”

At the September meeting of the IWC, Japan failed in an attempt to lift that 30-year-old global ban.

During the Brazil meeting, Australia’s IWC commissioner Dr Nick Gales said Japan had lost its “social licence” to continue to hunt whales for profit.

Also in Brazil, the IWC adopted a formal position that Japan had failed to justify that it needed to kill whales to study them.

At the meeting’s close, Japan issued a threat to leave the IWC and is currently reviewing its membership of the organisation.