30 Dec 2012

Australia won't monitor Japanese whaling

9:56 am on 30 December 2012

Australia will take diplomatic action to encourage Japan to drop its whaling expeditions but will not monitor the annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.

There are reports the Japanese fleet has begun its journey south.

Australia's Environment Minister Tony Burke restated the government's strong opposition to Japan's whaling operation and dismissed Japanese claims that the programme is for scientific research.

He said the government would lobby Japan to respect a moratorium on whaling in the Southern Ocean but would not respond to coalition calls for a customs vessel to be sent to monitor the hunt.

"The information that we have on the way Japan has alternated this each year is that in all likelihood they'll be in the New Zealand search-and-rescue zone anyway," he told AAP.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt on Monday had written to Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying it was vital an Australian vessel be present in case of any clashes between Japanese whalers and the anti-hunt group Sea Shepherd.

Japan's Fisheries Agency said the fleet plans to hunt up to 935 Antarctic minke whales and up to 50 fin whales.

Greens acting leader Adam Bandt said the government should seek a court injunction to stop the whaling.

The Australian government started legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice in May 2010.

Both Australia and Japan have filed their detailed written arguments to the court and the case has been set down for oral hearing at The Hague, probably next year.