H.S.I.: Mammalian Intent – Australia-Japan whaling latest.
Efforts by Humane Society International (H.S.I.) to legitimize the Australian Whale Sanctuary took a step forward at the Federal Court of Australia in late September.
In 2004, H.S.I. first sought an injunction – an order seeking to restrain action that would otherwise be an offence – to prevent the Japanese whaling fleet operated by Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd slaughtering whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, Antarctica.
The process was interrupted in 2005 by the determination of Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock that allowing H.S.I. to sue the whaling company would not be in Australia’s national interest.
The full bench of the Federal Court, however, determined that H.S.I. should be able to proceed with their action. Three years on, H.S.I. must now seek advice from the Attorney-General as to whether the Howard government still views enforcement of Australian law in Australian waters off Antarctica as purely discretionary.
The timing is now crucial for over a thousand whales facing explosive and electrified harpoons this summer in the name of “scientific research”.
Since the year 2000 when the relevant Australian laws were enacted, Japan has killed over 1200 whales within the sanctuary’s waters alone. Ably supported by Junior Counsel Chris McGrath and senior solicitor Jessica Wood from the Environmental Defender’s Office, Stephen Gageler Q.C. presented locations and numbers of whales killed to the court from detailed records kept by the whalers.
In Gageler’s discussions with Justice Allsop, the subject of last season’s Antarctic hunt was naturally discussed. A seriously reduced kill by the Japanese was attributed to intervention by Sea Shepherd as well as a 10-day fire and breakdown aboard the factory ship Nisshin Maru. Allsop J. did also ponder aloud why Sea Shepherd, “the other side, as it were” were not arrested on their visit to a Melbourne port following the “altercation”. The discussion turned to the possible nature of ports as places of refuge.
Whether for those with an interest purely in whales, international law, or judicial process, it was a tightly run court session in which a number of instructive points of interest were identified and considered. Of course, some laws seem more valid than others.
Under J.A.R.P.A. II, the latest self-decreed Japanese whaling instrument, Kyodo plans this season to kill at least 50 highly threatened humpbacks, in addition to roughly a thousand fin and minke whales.
Justice Allsop has ordered that Minister Ruddock shall respond no later than October 26. Interestingly, the court also seemed aware of the current context as an influential factor. There may well be a different government making such determinations by the time Japan’s Antarctic whale kill commences in December/January.
The stated policy of the ALP – deployment of Australian naval vessels to prevent or punish whaling in Australian waters – was not specifically referred to.
Outside the court, H.S.I. Wildlife & Habitats Program Manager Nicola Beynon was frustrated by the further delay, but positive regarding the judicial developments.
“The government now has a second chance to support Humane Society International’s case, so we would like them to take that opportunity, and to state that they will seek to have the Whale Sanctuary enforced against Japanese whalers.”
Beynon spoke highly of Environment Minister Turnbull and his diplomatic efforts through the International Whaling Commission, as well as praising the Australian government as “a real champion” in terms of international law with regard to whale protection.
But she sees foreign affairs as the area of governmental priority most likely to derail Antarctic whale protection.
“We wrote to the Prime Minister ahead of APEC and said ‘when you meet with Prime Minister Abe, will you please raise the whaling issue.’ We haven’t heard anything from the Government or the Prime Minister’s office as to whether those discussions took place.”