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New Zealand considering taking Japan to World Court over whaling

Sun May 15, 2005

WELLINGTON, (AFP) - New Zealand is considering taking Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over its plans to hunt endangered humpback whales in Antarctic waters, Conservation Minister Chris Carter said.

Japan plans to go to the meeting of the
International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Korea in June with a proposal to double its kill in Antarctic waters of about 440 Minke whales a year and to start hunting humpback and fin whales, according to Japanese reports.

Carter told the New Zealand Press Association Sunday he understood Japan wanted to add 80 of each of humpback and fin whales to its annual kill, which it claims is required for scientific research.

Japan stood condemned in "the court of public opinion" over its whaling and its claims it was needed for scientific research were a cover for killing the whales and selling the meat on the Japanese fish market, he said.

New Zealand would oppose the proposal and taking action in the ICJ was being considered, he said. The cost of a case and the chances of success would be taken into account in deciding whether this was the best option.

Japan argues that research shows whale populations are thriving and provides data showing whales are consuming valuable fish stocks, but these claims are disputed by environmentalists.

If the reported expansion plan is agreed to, it will be the first time Japan has increased its target species in the Antarctic.

Australia's Attorney General Philip Ruddock said Saturday that Australia was "vigorously opposed" to the Japanese proposals and would press its efforts to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said Japan risked damaging its reputation in the eyes of most Australians if it persisted with plans to hunt humpback whales.

He said Canberra would press for reform of the IWC when it meets next month, in a bid to have all forms of whaling banned.

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