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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Departure of the Japanese fleet

Media release
19 November 2009

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Environment Minister Peter Garrett has expressed Australia's disappointment at the departure of the Japanese fleet for the Southern Ocean.

“As we continue discussions on reform of the International Whaling Commission, we are deeply disappointed that the Japanese Government has again embarked on its annual hunt to the Southern Ocean.

“The Australian Government has said repeatedly that we do not have to kill whales to study them.

“We've backed our position with a $32 million commitment to non-lethal whale research, including through the Southern Ocean Research Partnership, and we have invited all member nations of the IWC to be part of this world first international research endeavour.

“Japan has the opportunity to swap harpoons for science this summer. The first joint Australia and New Zealand research voyage under the SORP is expected to leave New Zealand early in the new year and we would welcome Japan's involvement in this important initiative.”

Mr Garrett said since coming to office the Rudd Government had embarked on an unprecedented diplomatic effort to bring an end to so-called 'scientific' whaling, including through the appointment of a Special Envoy.

“In addition to our diplomatic efforts Australia is progressing a series of comprehensive reforms through the IWC to make it a conservation focused organisation, not one that simply counts dead whales.

“We are committed to continuing to work through the IWC reform process. However, as I made clear at the last meeting of the IWC in Portugal, that commitment does not amount to a blank cheque for open-ended negotiations. We must see a genuine engagement from other nations.

“We will continue to pull out all stops in our diplomatic and other efforts and we will continue to build a robust program of non-lethal whale research open to the entire international community.

“However, we did deliver on our commitment to collect evidence for possible international legal action and that option remains on the table.”

Japan has yet to lodge permits for the 2009–10 whale hunt. In 2008–09 the Japanese issued their own permit to kill up to 50 fin whales, 50 humpbacks and 850 minkes, plus or minus ten per cent.

Commonwealth of Australia