Japanese whalers may target white humpbacks off Australia

CANBERRA - Japanese whalers have refused to say if they will target white humpback whales such as Migaloo, which annually travels along the east coast of Australia, in their research slaughter this summer.

As the Japanese whaling fleet prepares to leave port and head for the Antarctic, the Japan Fisheries Agency has given a firm "no comment" to questions about white whales.

Japan, which uses a loophole in International Whaling Commission laws to hunt almost 1000 whales each year in the southern hemisphere, allegedly for scientific research, will target humpbacks for the first time this summer.

The ships have been given a quota of 50 humpbacks along with 50 fin whales and hundreds of the smaller minke whales this year.

Migaloo, which translates as White Fella, is believed to be the only completely white humpback whale in the world and is often spotted among the humpbacks which form the basis of Australia's whale-watching industry.

AAP inquiries of Japan Fisheries Agency about the fate of Migaloo and other white whales were met with "no comment".

Japan Fisheries Agency spokesman Hideki Moronuki says the fleet will step up security this season after heated clashes with anti-whaling protesters in the Antarctic last summer.

He called on Australia and New Zealand to take measures to curb the actions of protest ships he described as environmental "terrorists".

"Those two countries maintain the same position as Japan does against the violent action of terrorists," Mr Moronuki told ABC Radio.

"So, everybody can imagine that Sea Shepherd may take very dangerous illegal action again.

"I need a kind of support from those two countries in order to secure the safety of our crews and (our ships).

"We can take legal actions even though Sea Shepherd would take very dangerous illegal actions so we have to take other legal actions in order to keep from dangerous action by Sea Shepherd.

"It's very difficult, but we should do something."

Sea Shepherd ship's captain Paul Watson, whose vessel was involved in a collision with a whaler last summer, said he did not believe any stepped-up security arrangements would have any impact.

"What we have to understand here is Japanese whaling is illegal, he told ABC Radio.

"They're targeting endangered species in a whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling.

"We have the law on our side.

"If Japan reacts violently to us, causes any injury at all to any of our people, that will backlash very severely on Japan because Japan is the criminal nation here."

- AAP

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