Australia Sends Armed Merchant Ship To Track Whalers

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Reuters has an update on Australia’s recent attempts to track Japan’s whaling fleet:

0B15861B-CD09-4F7C-8F60-6355EC529D43.jpgCANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) — An Australian fisheries ship has begun pursuing Japan’s whaling fleet near Antarctica to gather evidence for an international court challenge to halt the yearly slaughter, officials said Wednesday.The icebreaker Oceanic Viking, used for customs and fisheries policing, left a base near Perth on Tuesday to track the fleet in the Southern Ocean for up to 20 days, a Home Affairs Ministry spokeswoman said.

The vessel has stowed arms below deck to avoid a confrontation, but Australian customs officials on board plan to gather photographic and video evidence of the Japanese kill.

In mid December The Sydney Morning Herald gave further details on the “customs” ship:

Australian customs ship australian vikingAUSTRALIA plans to spy on the Japanese whaling fleet using an armed P&O cruise ship, with a lesser role for the Australian Defence Force.High-level talks have focused on leasing the commercial vessel, Oceanic Viking, which has a re-enforced hull to cut through ice, a crew trained for polar conditions and “super-telephoto” lenses to record the whale slaughter.

Sources said the ship would also carry video equipment, and the images would be used in Australian international court action planned against the Japanese whale hunt, the largest for 20 years. The images would complement a series of aerial surveys on whale populations, to begin soon.

Under plans being developed, the Oceanic Viking would have two .50-calibre machine-guns manned by a customs boarding party to supply the “muscle”, while working with a civilian P&O crew. Continue Reading…

Since that article was published the Japanese fleet abandoned plans hunt 50 endangered humpback whales, refocusing efforts on a goal of 900 minke whales and 50 fin whales. In response to the changes Australia has decided the guns, while remaining aboard, will be kept under lock and key.

Along with the customs ship Greenpeace has given orders to the M/V Esperanza (photos) to join the effort. The following image is charts planned route of each vessel;

chart of whaling fleet interception

The deputy whaling commissioner Joji Morishita told BBC News that Japan’s position was hugely misunderstood;

What drives Japan is a belief in the principle of sustainable use of resources, whatever they might be, he said.

“Many countries support sustainable use of resources, but somehow they exempt whales from this principle, because they think whales are a special animal.

“But there are many special animals – the cow in India, for example – and if each nation tries to impose its own special animal on other countries, you can see the problem.” Continue reading…

If this story interests you can watch the action live on the M/V Esperanza’s Bridge Cam. Also be sure to check out the following resources: