UK & World News

  • 2 February 2013, 9:08

Australia Tells Japanese Whalers To Stay Away

A Japanese government ship providing security for whalers has entered Australian waters, prompting a furious reaction from Canberra.

The Australian embassy in Tokyo lodged a protest with the Japanese government after the Shonan Maru 2 crossed into an exclusive economic zone near Macquarie Island in the Antarctic Ocean while following anti-whaling activists.

Australia's environment minister Tony Burke said: "Australia has made it clear to Japan on a number of occasions that vessels associated with its whaling programme are not welcome."

Bob Brown, mission leader of the US-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said the Japanese vessel followed the anti-whaling ship the Bob Barker for two days.

He said that although the Shonan Maru 2 had stopped outside Australian territorial waters, it was inside Australia's exclusive economic zone on Friday.

Australia's territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22km) from Macquirie Island, but it claims exclusive economic rights within 200 nautical miles (370km).

"This vessel has armed personnel aboard," Mr Brown said.

"It is an affront to Australia that it is entering our territorial waters surrounding the World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island, which is part of Tasmania."

Japan's whaling organisation said it was forced to defy Australia's wishes because of the dangerous tactics used by activists aboard the Sea Shepherd.

A year ago, three anti-whaling activists boarded the Shonan Maru No 2 and were held there for several days before being transferred to an Australian customs ship. In 2010, the ship and a Sea Shepherd speed boat collided and the speed boat sank.

Japan says it hunts whales for scientific purposes, an allowed exception to the international whaling ban, though activists say the hunts are a cover for commercial whaling because the meat is sold for consumption.

The Australian government has launched a legal challenge to Japanese whaling through the International Court of Justice.