May 16, 2005

Whale slaughter must stop

Whale slaughter must stop

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 16 May 2005

The slaughter of 400 whales in Australian waters since 2000 by Japanese factory ships is appalling, and raises serious questions as to how much the Australian Government knew and why it failed to stop this illegal activity.

In 1999 the Federal Parliament passed a law creating a whale sanctuary in Australia’s territorial waters in the Antarctic. Yet since 1999 Japanese fishermen have killed over 400 whales in Australian waters – while the Australia Government has done nothing

The Howard Government has sat on its hands over the past three years while Japan has increased its influence over International Whaling Commission members.

By 2002 it was clear that over 50 per cent of IWC members were pro-whaling and that Japan was actively encouraging more pro-whaling nation states to join the Commission.

Yet as a member of the IWC with a vested interest in the protection of whale stocks, the Australian Government has sat by while Japan’s influence has grown to the point that it has the potential at the June meeting of the IWC in Korea to increase its own commercial whaling quota.

The Howard Government has been completely negligent in this matter. John Howard cannot simply feign shock and horror, given his Government has looked on while Japan has increased its influence on the Commission.

We now have the bizarre situation where some of the countries now supporting the Japanese position are Pacific states such as the Solomon Islands. This is a clear failure of Australian diplomacy with drastic environmental consequences.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer must break his silence on the whaling operations and apply diplomatic pressure on Japan to stop its efforts at the International Whaling Commission to allow the hunting of the endangered humpback whales and lift the quota for minke whales.

Prime Minister John Howard and Mr Downer have recently boasted of more profound diplomatic ties with Tokyo and it was time Australia made use of these.

They must use Australia’s good relationship with Japan to ensure this proposal for expanding whaling operations by the Japanese doesn’t proceed. They must raise this immediately at the highest levels in Tokyo and with the Japanese Embassy in Canberra.