FOREIGN Affairs Minister Murray McCully today condemned the resumption of so-called “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean.
New Zealand won’t be sending ships to stop Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean sanctuary, but Foreign Minister Murray McCully hopes diplomatic action will bring the practice to an end.
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd says it has evidence a Japanese whaling vessel, Nisshin Maru, has been killing whales in the sanctuary where commercial whaling is banned but scientific whaling is allowed.
Mr McCully condemned the practice, but said New Zealand didn’t make the rules as the sanctuary wasn’t part of the country’s sovereign waters.
Instead, Mr McCully told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday he was optimistic a case before the International Court of Justice would ban some of Japan’s practices, and at the very least, force more diplomatic discussions.
But the Green Party has said the government should do more than just talk, and should send a naval vessel to the Southern Ocean.
Last June, the government joined the Australian government’s challenge to the legality of Japan’s whale hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary at the ICJ, where a decision is expected early this year.
“We’ve made a very strong case that Japanese so-called scientific whaling isn’t scientific at all and that the court should bring down a ruling to force them to desist,” Mr McCully told Radio New Zealand.
He said there were many reasons why Japanese taxpayers would want to avoid the substantial cost of an exercise that had become increasingly pointless and caused great offence to New Zealanders.
“There’s no real market, there are freezers full of whale meat in Japan.
“This is something that’s being carried out substantially for the purposes of pride.”
The Sea Shepherd fleet is now trailing the Japanese ships in a bid to disrupt or shut down their whaling operations.
The Sea Shepherd group says it has footage of protected minke whales on the deck of the Nisshin Maru, taken when the factory ship was first found.
“Today’s information suggests the Japanese fleet has commenced whaling for the current season,” Mr McCully says.
“The practice of whaling in the oceans south of New Zealand is pointless and offensive to a great many New Zealanders.
“The New Zealand Government has repeatedly called on Japan to end its whaling programme. We reiterate this message today.”
New Zealand has formally lodged an intervention before the International Court of Justice in the case brought by Australia against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. The case is still before the court.
Mr McCully says reports by Sea Shepherd that whaling occurred in New Zealand sovereign waters are factually wrong.
“New Zealand has responsibility for co-ordinating search and rescue operations in a large area in the Southern Ocean, however these are international waters and not within New Zealand’s maritime jurisdiction.”