Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Australia Won't Protect Japan Whale Hunt

Australia won't protect Japan whale hunt
December 07, 2011

AUSTRALIA still doesn't buy Japan's argument that its whaling in the Southern Ocean is for scientific reasons and won't protect the hunt, Environment Minister Tony Burke says.

Japan's whaling fleet has set sail for the country's annual hunt in Antarctica, which it says is for scientific research, with security beefed up amid international protests.

Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd is preparing to confront the whalers and try to stop them harpooning whales.

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson says both his group and Japan have each asked Australia to send a vessel to guard them from each other during what he expects to be intense high-seas confrontations.

"That is one of the reasons I asked Australia to send a vessel down to keep the peace, but they refused," Captain Watson said.

Mr Burke said Australia's position couldn't be more clear.

"We don't buy for one minute this argument that it is somehow scientific whaling," Mr Burke said today.

"You don't travel from one side of the globe to the other to harpoon whales and chop them up in the name of science."

The minister said Japan had asked for a higher level of protection for their vessels simply because they were to be involved in whaling.

"There is no way that we could countenance something like that," he said.

"I've said so publicly at the International Whaling Commission, and the fact that the opposition has now jumped on that same bandwagon doesn't change the fact that we have no plans to send a vessel down."

Captain Watson said it appeared the Japanese fleet was accompanied by two security vessels with security people and coast guard aboard.

"We are hoping to deter their operations," he said.

"I assume the security vessels will try and dislodge us."

He said an estimated $28 million that Japan had given to this campaign was likely behind the beefed-up security.

"That money did come from the earthquake relief fund," he said.

"I think that it's totally disgraceful. People from around the world sending money to help the victims of the Tsunami-earthquake were not expecting their money to be used to fund killing whales in the Southern Ocean."

The Sea Shepard fleet will set sail in about eight days on three ships.

The Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot leave from Albany in Western Australia while the Bob Barker will depart from Hobart.

Comment was being sought from a spokesman for the whalers.

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