New diplomatic push to save whales from harpoons

CANBERRA - Australia has joined 20 other nations, including NZ, in another diplomatic push to convince Japan that its whaling program is wrong.

The joint diplomatic push, known as a demarche, will send a message of serious concern to the Japanese government about its so-called scientific whaling program, which this year will take almost 1,000 whales in Antarctic waters.

But the move has not convinced everyone, with the Australian Greens saying diplomatic protests have clearly had no impact on Japan.

Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the specific objection was to the current Japanese whaling program known as JARPA II, which began last summer.

Under the program, Japan "samples" numbers of whale species for scientific research.

Joining Australia in the diplomatic demarche will be the governments of Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"This is the largest number of governments in recent times to express jointly their deep concern that the government of Japan will continue its controversial so-called scientific whaling program (JARPA II)," Senator Campbell said in a statement.

"This year, Japan plans to kill up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales.

"Next year, Japan will start to hunt humpback whales under this JARPA II program."

Senator Campbell said some of the humpback whales that will be killed by JARPA II were likely to be known to researchers on the east and west coasts of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia and Tonga and may have been catalogued in photographs as part of existing non-lethal scientific research programs.

"Pro-conservation nations have expressed serious concern that these non-lethal scientific research programs will be undermined by JARPA II," he said.

"Some of the humpbacks which will be targeted on their summer feeding grounds are likely to belong to small, vulnerable populations that winter in the South Pacific, including some that remain critically endangered."

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said legal action must be taken against Japan.

"While it is pleasing to see more nations diplomatically opposing Japan's whaling program, it's clear that diplomatic efforts will not be enough to halt the slaughter," she said in a statement.

"Diplomatic efforts have simply not proved effective with Japan.

"The minister failed to save a single whale last year, and the Japanese have indicated they plan to increase the harvest and to expand the program to include endangered fin and humpback whales this summer.

"The Minister must test the true commitment of anti-whaling nations through the international legal system, or Japan will continue to thumb its nose at the world."

- AAP

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