Physical conflict between anti-whaling activists and Japanese whalers has been growing. Here, members of Sea Shepherd throw stink bombs aboard a Japanese whaler. Photo: John via flickr.
Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has set a deadline for Japan to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean or face international legal action. If by November 2010 negotiations fail to bring "their current catch to zero" Mr Rudd said Australia "will initiate court action" to halt Japanese whaling. In December of last year, the Prime Minister first made such a threat, but as he did not set a deadline, it was met with considerable skepticism.The Prime Minister went on to say:
Specifically, what we're putting to the Japanese is to take where they are now, which is the slaughter of some hundreds of whales each year and reduce that to zero.
If we don't get that as a diplomatic agreement, let me tell you, we'll be going to the International Court of Justice. (BBC News)
Japan Maintains Whaling is For Research
In case you're late arriving to this one: Though commercial whaling is banned by international convention, Japan maintains a whaling fleet on the grounds that the hunt is for scientific research, something permitted under the agreement.
Australia has opposed Japan's exploiting that loophole, as have many international environmental groups. Perhaps the most vocal and direct of these of late has been Sea Shepherd Conservation Society which continues to physically harass Japan's whaling fleet. In the first two months of 2010 there have been two collisions between Sea Shepherd vessels and whalers.
Risk If Legal Action Fails
In bringing legal action, based upon photo and video evidence that Japan's actions are in breech of the whaling ban, there is a risk though. The BBC's analyst raises a good point: Should the legal action fail, should an international court side with the Japanese, it could well give license to expanded whaling.
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Australia Tells Japan to End Whaling or Face Legal Action. Rest of World Rolls Eyes.