9 Jan 2010

Australia open to legal action over Japanese whaling

7:08 pm on 9 January 2010

The Australian Government will consider legal action over Japanese whaling if agreement isn't reached by the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is scheduled for June.

The issue flared again after the anti-whaling protest vessel Ady Gil and the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru No 2 collided in Antarctic waters on Wednesday.

The New Zealand-registered Ady Gil was severely damaged. Both sides are blaming each other for the collision.

Australian environment minister Peter Garrett says the federal government has been disappointed by the Japanese response to whaling negotiations, and if significant progress isn't made at the next IWC meeting, then legal action is a definite option.

Meanwhile, the Australian Greens leader Bob Brown is taking more direct action: he has sent a $A2.5m bill for the Ady Gil to the Japanese government.

Senator Brown says the bill should have come from the Australian government.

Japanese broke maritime law, skipper alleges

The New Zealand skipper of the Ady Gi is accusing the Japanese crew of breaking maritime law by not responding to mayday calls after the two vessels collided.

Pete Bethune says that when the collision happened, he ran inside and put out a mayday call on two channels, both of which the Japanese boats would have been monitoring.

But he says they didn't respond to those distress calls.

Mr Bethune says the boat was a big part of his life for the last four years and he's sad to see it go down. He says he didn't expect what happened.

Protesters accused of polluting ocean

A spokesperson for Japan's government-backed Institute of Cetacean Research, Glenn Inwood, is accusing the protesters of abandoning the Ady Gil in the ocean and wilfully polluting the Antarctic environment.

Mr Inwood says Japan's research vessels monitoring the area have reported that an oily substance thought to be fuel is leaking from the damaged boat and continues to spread over the sea surface.

The protest group Sea Shepherd says the boat is still afloat but is submerged to the waterline and is in the process of sinking.

It says every drop of diesel and oil was pumped out of it before its crew left and Mr Inwood is wrong.