The routine seems the same every year and is familiar. Japanese whaling ships arrive in the Southern Ocean to begin hunting whales. The pretext for the hunting is that it is for “scientific research” although that is almost universally disputed.
Most impartial observers believe the real reason for the hunting is to keep what remains of the Japanese whaling industry going.
Each year Sea Shepherd vessels track the whalers and aggressively attempt to disrupt the hunting.
Sea Shepherd and the whalers feed off each other. There is almost no commercial market for the whales anymore in Japan. The whalers carry on, because they don’t want to be seen to be buckling to pressure. I suspect if one ignored them, they’d stop within a decade.
This year the Green Party has taken up Sea Shepherd’s cry and called on the Government to send a naval vessel to the area to demonstrate New Zealand’s disapproval of the Japanese behaviour.
It may strike some as strange to hear the Greens promoting a show of military force but in any case the idea is foolish.
Even if the Japanese were breaching some law, New Zealand has no jurisdiction in the area and could do nothing about it.
Normally the Greens insist that military have no role in international disputes, but when it comes to whaling they want to send in a frigate!
Governments, both Labour and National, have said repeatedly that they do not accept Japan’s cover story used to justify its whaling and have called for the Japanese to end the practice.
That is the line taken consistently in international forums such as the International Whaling Commission for many years.
Last year, the present National Government went further and joined an action brought by the Australian Government in the International Court of Justice to have Japan’s whaling declared illegal. New Zealand’s case was strongly argued by Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.
The court’s decision is expected about within two or three months.
That will be eagerly awaited. Hopefully NZ and Australia win.
As Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said yesterday the whaling is being carried out “substantially for the purposes of pride and we’ve got to try and negotiate a way to get past what is a pointless activity . . .”
New Zealand is fully involved in that diplomatic activity.
Sea Shepherd’s Southern Ocean publicity stunt does nothing useful to advance it.
I think Sea Shepherd know that the practice would probably stop, if they were not there highlighting it. But then they would have no reason to exist. They and the whalers have a symbiotic relationship with each other – both needs the other to stay relevant.