typing is not activism….

environ mentalism, fresh articles, interviews & checkitouts from Sydney.

Major breakthrough: Australian Court moves to block Japan’s whaling fleet

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This summer’s enviro-political drama has just geared up from regional discomfort to international powder keg. In mid-January, the Australian Federal Court ruled that whaling by Japanese company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd in the Australian Whale Sanctuary – including disputed waters off Antarctica – is illegal and must stop immediately.

Humane Society International, represented in court by Senior Counsel Stephen Gageler, Barrister Chris McGrath and the Environmental Defenders Office, had been fighting to achieve this outcome for close to 4 years. Since 2005 the possibility of such a result had been blocked by federal Attorney-General Ruddock. He had deemed smooth relations with Japan more valuable than potentially unenforceable court orders.

Newly appointed Attorney-General Robert McLelland removed this administrative distortion late last year, thereby giving Justice Allsop the discretion necessary to issue an injunction. It remains to be seen how the federal government will enforce this court order.

Nicola Beynon, HSI Wildlife and Habitat Program Manager said that “the Australian Government has a ship, the Oceanic Viking, on its way to the hunting grounds so they will be well placed to enforce any injunction the court issues.”

In one sense, the outcome vindicates a federal ‘softly, softly’ approach which many activists have, until now, viewed as falling somewhere between apathy and betrayal. It may also have caught the new Australian government by surprise.

Japan‘s whaling fleet is currently scattered in Antarctic waters, pursued by the Greenpeace ship Esperanza and Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin, formerly the Robert Hunter.

While diplomatic pressure from Australia and the US forced Japan to abandon plans to target humpbacks for the first time in years, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert feels that the real coup belonged to Japan. Siewert says the whalers were always planning to postpone their humpback take.

“After talking up their response the new Labor Government has done little more than the previous Howard government to tackle the whale slaughter,” she said.

To emphasize this fact, deep ocean activists Sea Shepherd recently appointed former Howard environment minister Ian Campbell to their international advisory board. Shepherd captain Paul Watson said: “I believe he did as much as he was able to do to convince the Howard government to oppose Japanese whaling and he did more than the current government of Kevin Rudd is doing.”

In May last year, the Rudd/Garrett partnership promised firm action to curtail whaling. Measures included the use of international courts and tribunals, the enforcement of Australian bans on whaling within Australian waters and the use of Australian naval vessels to monitor and intercept whaling vessels deemed to be operating illegally.

An even more strongly worded press release from Environment Minister Garrett has since been removed from his homepage. What seemed a firm commitment to action deteriorated into a symbolically weak – though diplomatically crafty – deployment of the contracted customs vessel Oceanic Viking to shadow the whaling fleet for up to 20 days, with the possibility of additional air surveillance.

The injunction newly enabled by McLelland and obtained by HSI now seems to compel much stronger action, but the vessel under government orders is still the ship furthest from the Japanese fleet while Environment Minister Garrett continues to talk up a reconnaissance role.

Unlike NGOs that have already been actively in pursuit for the last month, the government vessel may still be diplomatically restricted to a monitoring role. This is frustrating all groups concerned to see commitments honoured and animals saved.

If these vessels do gather evidence to be used in legal proceedings against Japan – another Rudd/Garrett commitment – then hundreds of whales slaughtered now may prevent thousands of deaths in future.

But what evidence remains to be gathered is a mystery. From the whaler’s own records, HSI demonstrated that more than 1200 whales have illegally been killed in Australian waters over the last decade, while more than half of the whales killed in last year’s slaughter were pregnant at the time of death.

Japan is yet to issue a response to the new ruling. Meanwhile, the hunt continues.


Written by typingisnotactivism

January 15, 2008 at 4:40 pm

5 Responses

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  1. […] the Australian Federal Court called Japanese whaling – in Australian waters, at least – what it is: illegal. The Honourable Justice Allsop issued an injunction ordering that all Japanese whaling within […]

  2. […] corporation just a few weeks ago, but the Australian Federal Court recently issued an injunction banning further whaling by the Japanese fleet in Australian waters. The move by Coke is certainly bold and sure to be […]

  3. I am Maori, the Whales are very special to my people. I have heard their song all my
    life. Our people and our Polynesian cousins have followed this magnificent creature
    all over the world. As the whale knows the safest time to cross the seas. The Whale is
    in our dreaming and is a very strong gentle intelligent spirit. It is a teacher. We (all
    humans) were given this planet with eveything we needed on it. We are borrowing it
    from our children. Yet we are slow learners and still defacate in our own nests, we act
    like spoilt children who scream Mine Mine All Mine, we show our immaturity by not
    thinking of others around us. Animals included. We show our ignorance and
    arrogance by our actions of torture and greed. The Japanese as a whole are a
    sophisticated people, this has blinded some because of greed and a misplaced sense of
    pride. Their hunting methods are barbaric to extreme, its as if they feel power when
    they can inflict the most pain to the vunerable. This is not the behaviour of a civilised
    people. I kill my own meat with the greatest of respect and thanks, but if I cannot kill
    a creature humanly it lives for I would not put that shame upon my spirit. Not all of
    my people are of the same mind, but thats something for me to bear. The barbaric
    nature of many of the Asian nations on the Ones Without a Human Tongue, shows
    their inability to move forward in life. On traditions, the japanese never went whaling
    in the southern oceans, a tradition of some of my ancestors was to eat asians. Sushi
    japanese at my place lol. The japs are endangering the extremely lucrative whale
    watch industry in Australia and New Zealand, what right do they have to jepordise
    this. The japs have admitted killing lactating whales, leaving the babies to die a slow
    lonely painful death, these people if you could call them that are evil. A whale is to
    big to kill humanely. I bow to The People of The Sea Shepherd, they have my
    financial and spiritual support, hopefully my son will join them next year to help
    protect our Spiritual Teacher The Whale. In time may you all grow ears so you can
    hear the song of the Whale, for then you will be able to see your world in all its


    January 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm

  4. […] on January 28th, 2008 This sweet piece of writing comes from Paikea – originally as a comment here, but too good to leave tucked […]

  5. […] small number of nations, but they are also well established and well known to Japan, whose whaling fleet has been deemed to have a legal case to answer in Australia for killing whales there […]

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