New Zealand expresses disappointment at Japan's whaling fleet

17:00, December 07, 2009      

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New Zealand, together with Australia and the Netherlands, on Monday expressed disappointment that the Japanese whaling fleet is heading to the Southern Ocean for the summer.

In a joint press release with his counterparts from Australia and The Netherlands, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the countries remained resolute in opposition to so-called scientific whaling and called for calm from the whalers and the expected protests.

"We are aware that the coming season's anticipated Japanese whaling activities in the Southern Ocean are once again likely to attract protest, including through the despatch of the Dutch-registered Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, the Steve Irwin, and the New Zealand-registered vessel, the Ady Gil," the ministers said.

"Our governments respect the right of individuals and groups to protest peacefully, including on the high seas. At the same time, we do not condone -- indeed we condemn -- dangerous or violent activities, by any of the parties involved, be it demonstrators or whalers, " they added.

Anyone breaking the law would be dealt with by the relevant authorities, but the ministers warned that if anyone put themselves or others in danger it would be difficult to get help to them.

"The Southern Ocean is a remote and inhospitable region where the risk of adverse incidents is high and the capacity for rescue or assistance is low. Our governments jointly call upon all parties to exercise restraint and to ensure that safety at sea is the highest priority."

The three countries continued to oppose whaling at every possible diplomatic opportunity.

"This summer Australia, in cooperation with New Zealand, will be leading major whale research in Antarctica, which is designed to answer the most pressing research needs for whale conservation and which uses the most sophisticated non-lethal scientific techniques," the statement said.

"Australia, The Netherlands and New Zealand are participating in a diplomatic process on the future of the International Whaling Commission and continue to believe that diplomacy offers the best prospects for advancing whale conservation."

Japan conducts annual hunts using a rule under a moratorium on whaling agreed in 1986 that allows "lethal research" on the mammals.

In a related development, the New Zealand world record-holding powerboat Earthrace will leave Hobart on Tuesday for the Southern Ocean, to try to block Japanese whalers' attempts to harpoon whales.

The Earthrace -- renamed the Ady Gil after it was bought by the American businessman of that name for the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, will accompany the society's main vessel, the Steve Irwin, with a crew of 41, which left Fremantle in Western Australia on Monday and expects to reach the Japanese ships in eight to 10 days.

During their five-month hunt last season, the Japanese fleet caught 679 minke whales and one fin whale -- below the planned haul of between 765 and 935 whales, after activists threw rancid butter at the whalers, who allegedly deployed ear-piercing sonic weapons against them. The whaling ships left Japan on Nov. 19.

Source: Xinhua
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