12 Jan 2018

Japanese whaling: 'Send a NZ patrol boat'

11:13 am on 12 January 2018

Kiwi conservationist Peter Bethune wants New Zealand to send a Navy patrol vessel to the Antarctic to chase the Japanese whaling fleet.

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has released photos showing a dead protected minke whale on board a Japanese whaling ship.

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd released photos showing a dead protected minke whale on board a Japanese whaling ship in January last year. Photo: AFP

Japan has once again sent a fleet of whaling ships to the Southern Ocean for the summer, under the guise of conducting scientific research.

In August last year, the environmental organisation Sea Shepherd announced that it would no longer be sending its ships to keep an eye on Japan's activities.

Mr Bethune said New Zealand should step in to fill the gap.

"I would love to see the New Zealand Government send a patrol boat and follow those whalers right around Antarctica.

"You did see that many years ago, there was an Australian Coastguard vessel that followed them around, and with Sea Shepherd having withdrawn from activities in Antarctica, send a New Zealand patrol boat down there."

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said because the Japanese whaling fleet was operating in international waters, there is no legal basis to interfere with it.

Last month, New Zealand was one of a number of countries to reiterate its opposition to Japan's whaling programme and call for it to end.

At the time, the Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, said Japan's conduct "flies in the face of the clear recommendations of the International Whaling Commission, its Scientific Committee and its expert panels".

Japan was also failing to comply with a ruling by the International Court of Justice that found its whaling programme to be illegal.

New Zealand was a party to that case.

Barry Weeber, co-chair of an umbrella group of New Zealand environment and conservation organisations, said sending a vessel to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet would "complicate things".

He said there would likely be greater success through diplomatic channels, and organisations like the International Whaling Commission, as well as domestic pressure on the Japanese government to end the whaling programme.

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