SYDNEY Jan 6 Anti-whaling activists said on
Monday they had captured images of Japanese ships killing
protected whales inside an internationally recognised whale
sanctuary, sparking criticism of the Australian government's
handling of the issue.
The aerial footage released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society appeared to show the bloodied remains of three minke
whales on board the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru as it
sailed in the Southern Ocean. The group said it had information
that a fourth whale had also been killed.
The images have raised pressure on Environment Minister Greg
Hunt, who has backed away from a promise made during Australia's
election campaign last year to send a ship to monitor Japanese
whaling in the area.
His plan to instead send an aircraft staffed by customs
officials to randomly swoop over the area has been dismissed by
activists as ineffectual.
Bob Brown, a former lawmaker with the Greens party and
chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia, called on the conservative
Liberal Party-led government to honour its pledge to step up
monitoring of the Japanese fleet.
"We've got a federal court ruling that this whaling is
illegal and injunction to stop it," he told reporters. "I don't
know of any other entity or person in Australia who could simply
thumb its nose at the Australian Federal Court with an
Australian government saying we won't police it."
Hunt's office did not immediately respond to requests for
The opposition Labor Party accused the government of
"People are entitled to say 'why did they say one thing
before the election and another after the election?'," Labor
lawmaker Anthony Albanese told reporters.
Australia and Japan have for years been at odds over
whaling, which was once practiced by much of the world but is
now carried out by only a handful of countries.
Japan catches and kills hundreds of whales in the Southern
Ocean each year despite having agreed, under pressure from the
United States, to an international moratorium on commercial
whaling from 1986.
Japan says it is carrying out scientific research, allowed
by a 1946 treaty, to establish whether whale stocks are
recovering from over fishing.
Australia says that is a smokescreen for commercial whaling.
The two countries are awaiting the outcome of hearings on the
matter held last year at the Hague-based International Court of
(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Jane Wardell and Robert