by Jeni Bone
The Australian government has pledged to continue its fight against whaling, coinciding with Japan's whaling fleet departure for its annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherds new anti-whaling ship "Sam Simon" at BSE Maritime Solutions
In a statement, Environment Minister Tony Burke said: 'The Australian government condemns all commercial whaling, including Japan's so-called 'scientific' whaling. It is particularly offensive that Japan's whaling will take place in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission.
'We will keep working to achieve a permanent end to all commercial whaling.'
Steve Irwin carried out a number of missions in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary
The Australian government started legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice in May 2010.
Both Australia and Japan have filed their detailed written arguments to the court and the case has been set down for oral hearing in The Hague.
The Australia government anticipates the case is likely to be listed for hearing in the latter half of next year.
'The Australian government considers Japan's whaling program is contrary to its international obligations and should stop,' said Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
The group of vessels set sail from Japan’s western ports, with the mother ship, Nisshin Maru, which serves as the process factory for the killed whales, left from Innoshima. Greenpeace Japan’s executive director Junichi Sato says this was the last possible day for them to leave, as this is the last business day of they year, and the government previously stated the ships would depart in the month of January.
Sea Shepherd rescue by Australian Customs
This year’s hunt, taking place until March, is said to take up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales. Japanese authorities have declined to confirm the departures to foreign media, saying due to safety concerns they do not reveal such information.
The Japan Coast Guard revealed earlier this month that officers would be stationed aboard the vessels to deal with harassment from anti-whaling activists, more specifically the infamous Sea Shepherd. The environmental extremist group, led by Paul Watson, has repeatedly stated that it will try to stop Japan’s fleet from killing a single what this year, and even has intentions of confronting the ships while still in territorial waters.
Just over a week ago a US court granted an injunction that ordered Sea Shepherd to stay at least 500 yards away from any of Japan’s vessels, as well as navigating in any way that may endanger those at open sea.
While several other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, joined the US in their call on Sea Shepherd to not put anyone in danger, Watson responded that the court order will not prevent them from trying to stop the whaling fleet any way they can.
Sea Shepherd in Brisbane
In Brisbane, BSE Maritime Solutions recently worked on the most recent addition to the Sea Shepherd anti-whaling fleet, the 'Sam Simon',making an official presentation to Sea Shepherd's Captain Locky MacLean and Josh Trenter to commemorate its refit.