Environment Minister Greg Hunt says he is about 10 days away from announcing exactly how Australia will monitor Japan’s whale hunt in Antarctica.
Japan’s whale fleet has already set sail for the Southern Ocean and is expected to arrive in the protected whaling sanctuary before the new year.
Mr Hunt pledged repeatedly in the lead-up to the September election that a coalition government would send a Customs vessel to Antarctica to monitor the annual whale hunt.
But critics claim the government’s specialist Southern Ocean patrol vessel, the ACV Ocean Protector, is preoccupied patrolling at Christmas Island, thousands of nautical miles away.
Mr Hunt says he is working through some of the operational issues, but his commitment is clear and he is standing by it.
“You can trust me on this, that we will have clear monitoring in the Southern Ocean,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. “I just ask for about 10 days before I make the formal statement on that.”
The Sea Shepherd organisation says it has had word the whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru, is preparing to depart Japan any day.
Sea Shepherd promise
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has vowed to intercept the Japanese fleet before a single whale is slaughtered, a warning that could prompt clashes similar to those on the high seas earlier in the year.
Australia took legal action in the International Court of Justice after decades of diplomatic efforts failed to curb Japan’s whaling program. A verdict may be handed down before the end of the year.
Sea Shepherd has stepped up pressure on the Federal Government to send an Australian customs vessel to the Southern Ocean this summer.
This year a crew of 100 people from over 20 countries will be on board Sea Shepherd’s three vessels.
The previous Labor Government resisted calls from Sea Shepherd to patrol the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd’s chairman, former Greens leader Bob Brown, says the Federal Government need to honour its commitment.
“The Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt promised in May this year in the run to the election that if the Japanese whaling ships went south there’d be Customs vessels from Australia going south,” he said.
“So we need to hear from the Prime Minister that that promise to the Australian people will be kept.”
Sea Shepherd’s global head Alex Cornelissen says they are prepared for a rough ride.