Australia rejects Japanese pressure to block anti-whaling activists

The Sea Shepherd Society's flagship "Steve Irwin" is on its way to the Australian port of Hobart, in southern Tasmania state, and Japan's whaling fleet this week asked Australia's government to refuse docking rights.

Australia rejects Japanese pressure to block anti-whaling activists

Australia has rejected a Japanese pressure to block anti-whaling activists from re-supplying, saying on Thursday their ship would be allowed to dock at an Australian port before returning to harass whalers in the Southern Ocean.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard, standing in for vacationing leader Kevin Rudd, said there was no reason for the whaling-opposed government to accede to Japan's pressure over the yearly cull.

"The Steve Irwin will be permitted to dock at an Australian port. There is insufficient reason to prevent the Steve Irwin from doing that," Gillard told reporters.

The Sea Shepherd Society's flagship "Steve Irwin" is on its way to the Australian port of Hobart, in southern Tasmania state, and Japan's whaling fleet this week asked Australia's government to refuse docking rights.

Fleet officials accused Sea Shepherd, which has repeated clashed with whalers in recent years, of interfering with a search for a sailor believed to have drowned on Monday after toppling overboard in heavy seas.

Ship owner Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha demanded that member countries of the International Whaling Commission, or IWC, which enforces a worldwide whaling moratorium, take action against Sea Shepherd and refuse all assistance.

Company President Kazuo Yamamura's demand seemed directed at New Zealand and Australia, from where Sea Shepherd has based operations and where its receives strong public backing.

Australia and Japan clashed over whaling last year after Australia sent a customs icebreaker south to monitor and film the annual "scientific" cull with a view to taking Japan before an international court in a bid to halt it.

Japan will also come under pressure to end whaling at a meeting of the IWC next week in Chile, with anti-whaling nations to argue that the yearly cull of close to 1,000 whales poses a threat to species still recovering from near-extinction.

Gillard pleaded with both activists and whalers to avoid a reprise of dangerous protests in which whaling opponents have boarded Japanese vessels at sea and collided with harpoon ships in freezing and remote seas near Antartica. "We want people when they are on that stretch of water to conduct themselves in a way which ensures that they stay safe and others are safe," she said.

Though most Japanese do not eat whale meat on a regular basis, many are indifferent to accusations that hunting the creatures is cruel, while others resent being told what they should eat.


Reuters

Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2009, 12:43
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