Legal action may be taken over whaling

  • 30/11/2015
Acting Prime Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/3 News)
Acting Prime Minister Bill English (Simon Wong/3 News)

The New Zealand Government hasn't ruled out taking legal action if Japan flouts rules banning it from whaling in the Antarctic.

Japan cancelled the bulk of its whaling for the 2014-15 season following a ruling from the International Court of Justice, but indicated late last week that it would resume the controversial activity in March.

Under a revised plan, it proposes cutting annual minke whale catches by two-thirds to 333, a target the Japanese Fisheries Agency says is scientifically reasonable, according to a document filed with the commission.

The Government is unimpressed however, with Deputy Prime Minister Bill English telling the Paul Henry programme this morning the country is working with Australia to consider what action to take.

Asked if New Zealand could send a frigate to monitor the Japanese boats, Mr English said: "I wouldn't want to prejudge that. There may be legal means which were the steps taken last time."

He said Prime Minister John Key would raise the issue with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe this week "to maintain the diplomatic pressure".

Asked about Japan's doggedly pro-whaling stance, Mr English said it appeared to be the strongly traditional, conservative voice of a vocal and powerful minority.

"There's a very, very small number of people caught up in it," he said.

Similar sentiment was voiced by New Zealand's Acting Foreign Minister Todd McClay on Saturday when he said New Zealand was disappointed by Japan's decision.

"New Zealand's long-standing and fundamental opposition to this practice remains unchanged," Mr McClay said.

"Our strong view is that Japan should at least afford the International Whaling Commission the opportunity to consider the proposal in 2016."

Japan began so-called scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.

Japan has long maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its food culture.