10 Jan 2012

Japan to hand over anti-whaling activists

8:45 pm on 10 January 2012

Three Australian anti-whaling protesters detained after boarding a Japanese vessel in the Indian Ocean will be released to an Australian customs ship in a high-seas transfer.

Geoffrey Tuxworth, Simon Peterffy and Glen Pendlebury illegally boarded support vessel the Shonan Maru 2 in darkness off the coast of Western Australia on Sunday.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday the men's actions were unacceptable, but they would not face any charges under Japanese law. She thanked the Japanese government for its cooperation.

But Green Party leader Bob Brown said Ms Gillard should be criticising the Japanese whalers, not the activists. Senator Brown said he supports what the men did because they have drawn global attention to whaling.

Australia opposes Japan's annual whaling in the Southern Ocean, but says the only way to stop the practice is through international court action, not dangerous, high-seas protests, Reuters reports.

Last year, Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in the Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling. A decision is expected in 2013 or later.

The activists from the Australian group Forest Rescue boarded the Shonan Maru 2 with assistance from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, whose ships are trying to tail the Japanese whaling fleet as it heads towards the Southern Ocean.

Last season, Japan cut short its annual whale hunt with less than a fifth of their quota in response to Sea Shepherd actions which saw activist boat The Ady Gil sunk in a collision with a Japanese ship.

Japan introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 ban, arguing it has a right to monitor the whales' impact on its fishing industry.