Australia announced on Sunday that it will track Japan’s whaling by air, not by sea. The statement drew criticism from anti-whaling groups such as Sea Shepherd, who said it was a “pretty, cowardly” response to Japan’s annual whaling hunt.
Australia scheduled an aerial Customs and Border Protection mission to the Southern Ocean in order to send a message that the world is watching both Japan’s whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd activists.
The decision to make the surveillance by air and not by sea was motivated by the Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who said that the Airbus A319 used for tracking would increase the surveillance mission’s reach and effectiveness, according to the international press.
But Sea Shepherd criticized the move, with Australian chairman Bob Brown saying: “They will fly over and look from a great height. What are they going to do if something is going wrong down there? Where are they going to send a vessel from? Because those planes are not going to be able to intervene.”
“It is a sham operation, this plane,” Brown added. “It is dangerous down there, we have got a violent Japanese whaling fleet on the way with grenade-tipped harpoons and it is dangerous to get in the way of that and uphold the law.”
“This surveillance operation should be there from the outset, (instead) it is going to fail from the outset,” he said.
Clashes between the Japanese vessels and Sea Shepherd are common, with the activists regularly pelting the whaling ships with stink bombs, attempting to foul propellers and maneuvering their vessels between harpoons and whales.
Australia says Japan’s whaling is illegal and has taken its key Asian trading partner to the International Court of Justice seeking an injunction against the harpoon programme. A conclusion will be announced in 2014.