Anti-whaling groups unite in call for Government legal action

Sydney, Thursday 15 June 2006: On the eve of the International Whaling Commission meeting (IWC) in St Kitts, Australia's peak conservation and animal welfare groups called on the Australian Government to take legal action against Japan for illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean.

With media reports suggesting Japan may secure a pro-whaling majority at the IWC, the groups have reminded Australians that Japan has increased the number of whales it kills each year through the loophole of 'scientific whaling' and will continue to do so regardless of the IWC outcome.

Greenpeace, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Humane Society International are urging Senator Campbell to look outside the IWC to save whales by taking Japan to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Greenpeace Chief Executive Steve Shallhorn said, "The government needs to continue diplomatic efforts at the IWC, but must also support the use of ITLOS to close the loophole that is 'scientific' whaling."

An independent panel of international legal experts commissioned by IFAW has found the 'scientific whaling' conducted by some members of the IWC is in violation of the moratorium on commercial whaling and that such whaling is unlawful.

"The global community needs to hold Japan accountable for its disregard of international law, and IWC member nations may want to carefully consider their reputations before voting with Japan--as a vote for 'scientific' whaling is a vote for an unlawful activity," said Mick McIntyre, IFAW Asia Pacific Director.

"A total of 41 resolutions condemning 'scientific' whaling have been passed at the IWC to date yet more whales continue to die each year," said Mr McIntyre. "The Government must now take legal action against Japan through ITLOS to bring an immediate halt to whaling."

"Australia successfully took Japan to ITLOS in 1999 over an "experimental fishing program" for southern bluefin tuna," said Michael Kennedy from HSI. "Japan was forced to suspend this program while the case was considered and, ultimately, 'experimental fishing' was dropped."

"The International Tribunal is the place where Australia's quest to protect whales should now move to," said Chris Smyth, ACF's Marine Campaign Coordinator. "Decisive legal action will give Australia's diplomacy more bite."

"The Minister for the Environment has publicly stated there must be a strong chance of success for legal action to be pursued--now independent international law experts say this case can be won. Clearly the time to act is now," the conservation groups said.

Note to Editors
JARPA II is being carried out because of a loophole in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), which allows unlimited numbers of whales to be killed for scientific research.