The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has embarked on its tenth annual campaign to stop the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean, but it’s missing the support of a customs ship that was promised by the government.
Australia has taken a strong stance against whaling, specifically Japan’s supposed “research” whaling, and supports the global moratorium that was established decades ago. In a show of support for whales, the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, made a pre-election promise last May to send a customs vessel – the Ocean Protector – to monitor whalers and ensure there are no conflicts if Japanese ships returned in violation of an injunction that was issued in 2008.
Japan has long been using and abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal scientific research and has continued to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary where they’re protected by international law.
Now the government is being accused of breaking its election promise after an announcement was made over the weekend that a plane would instead be used from January to March to observe any potential clashes between Sea Shepherd and Japanese whaling vessels.
Clashes seem inevitable for Operation Relentless as Sea Shepherd’s three ships, the Bob Barker, the Steve Irwin and the Sam Simon, are left on their own to intervene and protect whales from the Japanese ships that are already on their way to kill them in a manner that isn’t just cruel, but also threatens vulnerable populations.
“The Japanese whaling fleet intends to kill 1,035 whales of which 50 are endangered fin whales and 50 are endangered humpback whales, the very same whales that frequent the shores here off Australia,” Captain Peter Hammarstedt told the AFP.
The government has raised further accusations about not wanting to get its hands dirty or upset Japan and has drawn some harsh criticism for leaving an NGO to do its job for it. Technically, an Australian customs vessel would have to intervene and would require Japanese vessels to leave the area if they’re caught whaling, but not much can be done from a plane to stop conflicts or deal with whalers.
“Prime Minister Abbott and Greg Hunt have harpooned the Christmas hope that they would keep their word. They are effectively turning a blind eye to the Japanese slaughter because they have been advised that, otherwise, they would have to intervene and enforce the Federal Court injunction against the slaughter,” said Sea Shepherd Australia’s Chair, Dr. Bob Brown.
Last year’s Operation Zero Tolerance was marked as the most successful to date, saving hundreds of whales from violent deaths and sending whalers home far short of their annual quota. Hopefully they’ll be even more successful this year.
Meanwhile, Australia has brought the issue of whaling to the International Court of Justice, arguing that Japan’s alleged “research whaling” is breach of the country’s international treaty obligations and that research can be conducted through non-lethal means. A decision that could bring Japanese whaling to an end is expected sometime in early 2014.
Please sign and share the petition asking Australia’s Prime Minister to do more than pay lip service to its anti-whaling stance by immediately sending the Ocean Protector to the Southern Ocean.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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