Court action looms af­ter anti-whal­ing boat sinks

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

CAN­BERRA: The fu­tur­is­tic anti-whal­ing protest boat struck by a Ja­panese har­poon ves­sel near Antarc­tica fi­nally sank yes­ter­day, prompt­ing Aus­tralia to voice of­fi­cial con­cern about safety in the re­mote South­ern Ocean.

Se­nior diplo­mats in Tokyo made “high-level rep­re­sen­ta­tions” about safety in Antarc­tica’s frigid wa­ters. They also raised con­cer ns about “spy flights” or­gan­ised by Ja­panese whalers from Aus­tralian air­ports to track and foil protest- ers, Aus­tralia’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Peter Gar­rett said.

Aus­tralia, he said, was also keep­ing open the op­tion of an in­ter­na­tional le­gal chal­lenge to Ja­panese whal­ing if diplo­matic ne­go­ti­a­tions with Tokyo failed to reach an out­come.

“If we don’t see sub­stan­tial and sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment in re­spect of those ne­go­ti­a­tions, and if we don’t see it by the time the In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion meets in June... then the con­sid­er­a­tion of le­gal action will be one that will be fully in front of us,” Gar­rett told re­porters in Syd­ney.

The hard­line Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety’s powerboat Ady Gil sank af­ter hav­ing its bow sheared off in a col­li­sion with the Ja­panese se­cu­rity ship Sho­nan Maru No. 2.

Each side has blamed the other for the in­ci­dent in which one crew­man aboard the protest ves­sel was in­jured.

“We strongly protest against ac­tions that ob­struct the course of Ja­panese ves­sels, or those that threaten lives and prop­er­ties and are ex­tremely danger­ous,” Ja­panese for­eign min­is­ter Kat­suya Okada told a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day, adding it may be nec­es­sary to talk with other gov­ern­ments to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again.

The $1.5 mil­lion tri­maran had floated in the South­ern Ocean for two days as an­ti­whal­ing pro­test­ers tried to tow it to safety at a French Antarc­tic re­search base.

Sea Shep­herd Cap­tain Paul Wat­son said the Ja­panese whalers ig­nored all dis­tress calls af­ter the boat was crip­pled, with the six crew picked up by a sec­ond Sea Shep­herd boat nearby.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists ac­cuse Aus­tralia’s cen­tre-left prime min­is­ter, Kevin Rudd, of backpedalling on threats of an In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice whal­ing chal­lenge to avoid dam­ag­ing Aus­tralia’s $58 bil­lion trade re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan.

Some le­gal ex­perts be­lieve the Ja­panese cull is in breach of in­ter­na­tional laws, in­clud­ing the Antarc­tic Treaty Sys­tem and the Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species.

“The prime min­is­ter is very clear that le­gal action is firmly in front of us,” Gar­rett said. A court chal­lenge would lead to so-called pro­vi­sional or­ders for Ja­pan to im­me­di­ately halt whal­ing ahead of a full hear­ing. – Reuters

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