International Whaling Commission panel opposes Japanese proposal
Japan's plan to revive its outlawed Antarctic whaling has been dealt a blow with independent experts finding it failed to justify a new hunt.
The Japanese Government had submitted a plan for a revamped "research whaling" program killing a total of nearly 4000 whales over 12 years, for review by an expert panel of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
This followed an International Court of Justice decision in March last year banning the previous program in a case brought by Australia and supported by New Zealand.
But the IWC panel said in a report released on Monday night that Japan failed to provide enough information to determine whether killing more minke whales was necessary to meet the research objectives.
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"Therefore, the current proposal does not demonstrate the need for lethal sampling to achieve those objectives," the panel concluded.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year re-committed the country to pursuing Antarctic whaling after the ICJ decision.
"Japan, looking at international law and scientific grounds, will engage in research of whaling in order to collect the indispensable scientific information in order to manage the whale resources," Abe said on his visit to Australia.
Japan proposed taking 330 minke whales annually in a 12 year program, meaning a total kill of 3996 - on top of the nearly 10,000 already killed under its scientific permits.
Its scientists set two broad objectives for the program called NEWREP-A: obtaining more precise information on minkes should the global moratorium on commercial whaling ever be lifted; and investigating the Antarctic marine ecosystem
The IWC expert panel said considerable work had been undertaken to develop NEWREP-A.
"However...the present proposal contains insufficient information for the panel complete a full review," its report said.
It proposed a new work program by the Japanese, which might take several years, to provide more scientific information before a full review of the programme could be completed under IWC rules.
Lobbyists from the International Fund for Animal Welfare celebrated the outcome.
"It's 2015. You don't need to be a scientific expert to know there's no need to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean," said Patrick Ramage, global whales program manager for IFAW.
Australia had argued in a submission to the IWC panel that NEWREP-A was no different from the previous Japanese hunt rejected by the international court.
"Japan has added several non-lethal elements to the program in an attempt to make it appear less focused on lethal methods," said Australian scientists, led by Bill de la Mare of the Australian Antarctic Division.
"However in terms of allocating research effort, and likely expenditure, these appear to be subsidiary to the primary goal of lethal sampling."
The Japanese Government is yet to respond.
- Sydney Morning Herald