Whalers could look to north

Slaughtered short-finned pilot whales on the deck of a whaling boat at Taiji, Japan. Photo by...
Slaughtered short-finned pilot whales on the deck of a whaling boat at Taiji, Japan. Photo by Reuters.
It could be the turn of depleted northern hemisphere whale populations next, University of Otago Assoc Prof Liz Slooten fears.

She says they could come under threat if Japan moves its whaling endeavours following an International Court of Justice decision against its ''scientific'' whaling programme.

The court's decision, announced on Monday night, that Japan's Southern Ocean whaling programme did not serve the purposes of scientific research and must cease was welcomed by Prof Slooten, an invited specialist on the International Whaling Commission's scientific committee.

''It's wonderful the court has acknowledged the problem and the idea it was being done for scientific purposes was a sham argument.''

However, she had concerns about the impact of the decision if Japan decided to redesign its programme and start scientific whaling again.

Liz Slooten.
Liz Slooten.
If it shifted from the Southern Ocean to waters nearer Japan, it could hit depleted whale populations hard.

''Instead of solving the problem, it could lead in the northern hemisphere to greater conservation damage than in the Southern Ocean.''

She expected next month's Whaling Commission scientific committee meeting in Slovenia to be an interesting one, given the decision.

New Zealand is represented on the committee by scientists from the Department of Conservation and Ministry for Primary Industries.

In the past, the scientists on the committee had come down heavily on Japanese scientists for their poor quality work and lack of research on whaling, Prof Slooten said.

''They'd say `this isn't science' and every year the Japanese would say `thank you very much' and do it, anyway.

Liz Slooten.
Liz Slooten.
''I hope this time we'll get a different response.''

The Whaling Commission had no legislative power to stop the scientific whaling.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said New Zealand hoped Japan would respect the court's decision and not get back into whaling.

''The ICJ decision sinks a giant harpoon into the legality of Japan's whaling programme: Jarpa II,'' Mr McCully said.

New Zealand consistently opposed Japan's so-called ''scientific'' whaling, a practice deeply offensive to many New Zealanders, and joined Australia's fight in the United Nations court to stop it.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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