An International law expert from the Australia National University said Australia cannot stop the Japanese from whaling in the Southern Ocean and its relentless monitoring activities have no legal ground.

Donald Rothwell told the ABC  that Australia’s surveillance may compromise the country’s claim to sovereignty over the Antarctic.

Speaking to Lucy Carter, Rothwell asked:

Well the key issue that really needs to be asked is what is Australia’s capacity from a legal perspective to undertake any form of surveillance or monitoring and ultimately law enforcement against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean?

From the international law perspective, it’s really not in doubt that Australia has no capacity under international law to seek to go and enforce the provisions of the whaling convention against the Japanese whalers.

Nisshin Maru rams The Bob Barker in one of the clashes in the Southern Ocean (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Japan, for one, does not recognize Australia’s sovereignty beyond its Exclusive Economic Zone and will not bow to any pressure from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to impose a prolonged and “unnecessary” whaling moratorium.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with other previous Japanese governments, made this point clear long time ago. The Ministry pointed out that Japan “strongly supports the protection of endangered species” but it also needs to defend its research activities which prove that “whales are not endangered.” Japan maintains its position as responsible and that that it uses a comprehensive approach to whaling and sustainable use of marine resources.

The Ministry argued that from the 1980s, whale species were abundant again following the IWC’s measures to protect marine species in the 1960s and 1970s. During those times, several whale species were over-harvested and effective measures to protect the endangered species were urgently called for. Japan said the IWC, “did an outstanding job on this subject in the mid-1970’s to protect blue whales and other endangered species, and Japan highly appreciates its effort.”

This year, Japan’s Minister for Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, informed the IWC that the Japanese fleet would be operating anywhere between waters south of Africa, and south-east of New Zealand. He added that he had issued “special permits” to send the fleet to take up to 935 Antarctic minkes, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpbacks.

Yushin Maru and the Kyo Maru No.1 transfer whales to the Nisshin Maru factory ship, Southern Ocean/ Dec 21, 2005

Norway, Iceland aid Japanese whale imports

In defiance to the IWC, Norway and Iceland are helping Japan to import tonnes of whale meat this year.

The Washington DC-based Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announced a statement it has obtained new documents showing Norway is playing a key role in Iceland’s massive exports of whale to Japan.

Iceland is shipping the bulk of whale meat and blubber to Japan’s Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd via Norway. Kyodo is implicated in the controversial whaling within Australia’s Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha announced in December last year that it would begin imports of Norwegian whale meat in 2014. The company said the imports will be sold “in order to help subsidize future Japanese scientific whaling efforts.”

Norway’s Environment Agency granted Reine-based Lofothval two permits to send whale products to Japan. One shipment of 5,000 kg is identified as whale meat only from Lofothval, while a second shipment is identified as a re-export of 5,000 kg of Icelandic minke whale meat and blubber, AWI claims.

Another Norwegian company, Myklebust Trading AS, also sought government’s permission to ship up to 34,381 kg of minke whale products to the Toshi International Company in Japan. This would be the second shipment from Myklebust to Toshi since 2013, AWI said. Statistics shows that 14.1 metric tons of whale meat were imported from Iceland into Norway in February 2013.

AWI said anti-whaling countries are enraged with the latest Japanese whale imports that will soon spark protests before the International Court of Justice, which is expected to issue a ruling this year on a case filed by Australia calling for Japan to stop whaling.

The iconic whales at the entrance of Taiji (Photo: Japan Focus.org)

Taiji vows to uphold whaling tradition

Taiji, a small town in southeastern Japan, notorious for its tradition of marine mammal slaughter, has forged community alliances to support the long-held tradition of whaling. This township stubbornly insists that “whales have no national borders, they live in deep seas, and migrate freely across and through the waters of national jurisdiction, hence different people have different views about the whales.”

The general perception of whale in Taiji is that whale is part of the marine food resources, and whaling is no different from hunting and farming.

Japan, like Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Iceland treats whale meat as food, and where the consumption of marine food resources exceed the consumption of land animal meat.

It is believed that Japan and Iceland have the longest life expectancy — possibly attributed to people living a lifestyle of a balanced diet coming from the sea.

In its Declaration on Traditional Whaling (2006), summit attendees denounced the “double standard” given by conservationists to criticize whaling as a cruel act.

Taiji is located in southeast Japan.

Among the many points of the Declaration:

It is a double standard by giving a name to a particular whale” (read – dolphin!) and treating the issue on the individual animal basis while promoting culling of over-populated wildlife (kangaroo, deer, and camel) by treating the cull issue on a species basis for the sake of preservation of species and not focusing on its aspect of cruelty.

Australia’s relentless surveillance

The Bob Barker sustained damage from the Japanese fleet. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Sea Shepherd Australia’s (SSA) Operation Relentless is out in the Southern Ocean to disturb the Japanese whalers. SSA reported last week it located the three Japanese vessels and took footage of one ship carrying three slaughtered minke whales.

The Japanese Yushin Maru No.3 also pursued The Bob Barker, but it stopped the chase when The Bob Barker crossed Australia’s EEZ, 200 miles of Macquarie Island. The harpoon ship stopped one mile outside the zone, the SSA Captain Peter Hammarstedt reported.

The Steve Irwin and The Sam Simon have been patrolling the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru. SSA said the Japanese vessels have been running for more than a week with little likelihood of being able to stop to poach whales.

SSA Chairman Bob Brown, for the first time, was in high spirits and satisfied with the support of the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt. Brown said Hunt has been contacting the Japanese authorities over the impending invasion of the Australian Whale Sanctuary, which includes the EEZ, by the harpoon ship.

“Once again Sea Shepherd has seen the Japanese whaling fleet’s tactics thwarted. But we are mindful that the fleet is publicly committed to killing another 931 Minke Whales as well as 50 Fin Whales and 50 Humpbacks,” Brown said.