Australia

Japan issues threat after failed bid to revive commercial whaling

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Australian lobbying has been successful in thwarting an attempt by Japan to end a 32-year moratorium on commercial whaling and set quotas on whale hauls.

The International Whaling Commission has rejected the proposal from Japan, which argued whale populations had recovered sufficiently. The vote was defeated 41 to 27 on Friday after a five-day meeting in Brazil.

The commission also rejected attempts to weaken its decision-making rules and establish catch limits for commercial whaling.

Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales each year in defiance of the ban.

Japan's vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, right, Masaaki Taniaisenior, at the International Whaling Commission.
Japan's vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, right, Masaaki Taniaisenior, at the International Whaling Commission.

Australia has been one of Japan's biggest critics on the issue and was one of just three countries out of the total 75 nations present to send a ministerial representative to the conference in Brazil.

"The Australian government worked hard with partner countries in the commission to achieve this outcome," Senator Anne Ruston, the Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific, said in a statement on Friday.

"Our delegation's strong advocacy was successful in having the Japanese proposal to resume whaling rejected, following intense lobbying of member nations and non-government representatives from many parts of the world," she said.

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Following the vote, Japan's agriculture minister, Masaaki Taniai, warned his country could quit the commission.

"If scientific evidence and diversity are not respected, if commercial whaling based on science is completely denied, and if there is no possibility for the different positions and views to co-exist with mutual understanding and respect, then Japan will be pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC," he said.

Despite the victory the Greens have criticised the government for not exerting enough pressure on Japan and for sending Ms Ruston, a junior minister, instead of Environment Minister Melissa Price.

A Japanese protester outside the Costao do Santinho Resort hotel, where the sixty-seventh plenary meeting of the International Whaling Commission is held.
A Japanese protester outside the Costao do Santinho Resort hotel, where the sixty-seventh plenary meeting of the International Whaling Commission is held.
AAP

Greens Environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young called for the government to take "urgent action to stop Japan's intention to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean under the fig leaf of scientific research".

In a press release she said: "The world is expecting Australia to challenge Japan's plan to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean this summer. We must prepare to send a vessel to our southern waters to investigate our legal options."

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