The Coalition has been accused of backing away from a pre-election commitment to tackle whaling in the Southern Ocean, after refusing to redeploy a specialist patrol vessel which has been tasked with intercepting asylum seekers near Christmas Island.
Before the election, the Coalition said it would send a Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor whaling activity by Japanese ships, following the occasionally violent confrontations with anti-whaling protesters in recent years.
The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd said it expected the Japanese whaling fleet to head to the Southern Ocean as early as next week. But the Ocean Protector, an armed vessel designed to tackle illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, is currently patrolling waters near Christmas Island as part of Operation Sovereign Borders.
A spokesman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, told Guardian Australia the government hoped the International Court of Justice would rule in favour of Australia to prevent Japanese whaling in the coming season.
“If, however, their fleet sets sail our commitment to monitoring and observing remains undiminished,” he said.
But the spokesman said he would not “pre-empt or discuss operational activities by confirming whether another boat could be sent in place of the Ocean Protector.
In the Senate on Tuesday, the assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Michaelia Cash, refused to commit to moving the boat to the Southern Ocean.
Questioned by Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, Cash blamed the boat’s current role as an “expensive water taxi” on the refusal of Labor and the Greens to back temporary protection visas.
It is understood the Ocean Protector is the only specialist operational vessel available to undertake the demanding task of patrolling the icy Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd is again primed to intercept Japanese whaling vessels, should they head to the Southern Ocean. The Japanese Nisshin Maru ship repeatedly rammed the Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Bob Barkerearlier this year in a heated confrontation.
Last week the New Zealand navy sent the HMNZS Otago to monitor fishing in the Antarctic region.
In opposition, Hunt was a vocal critic of the Labor government’s efforts to prevent the killing of whales, promising to restore regular patrols.
“We’ve got blood in the water and a blind eye in Canberra, it’s completely unacceptable,” he told reporters in February.
“These are Australian waters that should be protected. Whaling should never be occurring but for it to occur in Australian waters is an utter failure in Canberra. The government should stop turning a blind eye to whaling in our waters and should have a Customs vessel in the Southern Ocean.”
Whish-Wilson told Guardian Australia the Coalition had broken a pre-election commitment to combat whaling.
“Today, Michaelia Cash read off all of the Coalition’s whaling commitments apart from the last line, which commits a vessel to monitor the Southern Ocean,” he said.
“We’re concerned there is a split in the cabinet over this. Unlike Labor, the Coalition had a strong election commitment against the Japanese whaling fleet but it appears that Michaelia Cash doesn’t share her colleagues’ enthusiasm for protecting whales.
“I’m worried there will be an escalation of aggression this year, given what happened last year and the fact the Japanese have been doing a lot of training this time.
“It would be a strong deterrent to have an Australian vessel there, to make sure the Japanese don’t kill whales in Australian sovereign waters, like last year. Plus, if something really serious did happen, which looks increasingly likely, at least there would be a boat on hand to deal with the situation.”
Source: The Guardian
Source: 9 NEWS
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.