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Whaling fight turns ugly

humpback-whaleCORBIS.jpgConflicts over this year’s whale hunt by the Japanese have escalated, both in diplomatic circles and on the high seas.

An Australian court has declared the hunt illegal, claiming it is taking place in the ‘exclusive economic zone’ over which only Australia has rights. Meanwhile the militant Sea Shepherd conservation society claims two activists were tied to a mast by whalers after boarding their ship to deliver a letter.

This year’s hunt was already more controversial than usual due to a plan to catch humpback whales, although this was later abandoned.

Australia’s Federal Court ruled that the hunt was illegal as it was taking place in the Australian Whale Sanctuary (Sidney Morning Herald). However the sanctuary is not recognised by Japan.

“It is impossible for the Japanese government to accept the Australian court’s ruling. As far as we are concerned, Japan’s whaling activities are taking place in international waters and under a legal framework set out by the International Whaling Commission,” a spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry told the Guardian.

In any case the ruling is rather academic: the court has said there is little it can do unless whalers of the Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha company- against whose whalers the ruling was made – come to Australia. “Unless the respondent’s vessels enter Australia, thus exposing themselves to possible arrest or seizure, the applicant acknowledges that there is no practical mechanism by which orders of this court can be enforced,” admitted Justice Jim Allsop.

Meanwhile accounts of the detention of two activists are contradictory. According to the London Times, Japanese officials say Giles Lane and Benjamin Potts were held in a locked room for their own safety after throwing acid bombs and forcibly boarding the Yushin Maru No 2. The paper also notes that photographs show Potts tethered to railing on the deck.

The Guardian says Lane and Potts tried to board the ship carrying a letter demanding the hunt’s end which said “it is my intent to deliver this message and then to request that you allow me to disembark from your vessel without harm or seizure.”

The Sidney Morning Herald reports the whalers saying they will continue to hold the pair until Sea Shepherd cease their “and illegal activities”. This account is backed by the organisation themselves (website).

Australian environment minister Peter Garrett has made no comment so far, thus losing his unparalleled chance to appear in The Great Beyond three days in a row,


From our ‘you couldn’t make it up’ department. The BBC has a reporter embedded with Greenpeace. His name? Jonah Fisher


The BBC says the pair are free.

Image: Corbis


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