SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia said on Monday it was “deeply disappointed” Japan had continued whaling in the Southern Ocean after anti-whaling activists published a photograph of a dead whale and two days after Australian and Japanese leaders discussed the issue.
Australia has long opposed Japanese whaling and the contentious issue was raised in talks between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sydney on Saturday, said sources familiar with the talks.
“The Australian government is deeply disappointed that Japan has decided to return to the Southern Ocean this summer to undertake so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said on Monday.
“It is not necessary to kill whales in order to study them,” Frydenberg added, without confirming the exact location of the current hunt.
The International Court of Justice ruled in 2014, in a case brought by Australia, that Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean should stop, prompting Japan to suspend its hunt for one season, though it resumed in 2015.
Japan maintains that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of its culture. Japan started what it calls “scientific whaling” in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.
Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd published a photograph on Sunday of a dead minke whale, which appeared to have been punctured by a harpoon, on the deck of the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru. Sea Shepherd said the ship was hunting in an Australian sanctuary off the Antarctic coast.
The photograph is the first of the Japanese whaling fleet hunting in the Southern Ocean since the 2014 court ruling, Sea Shepherd said in a statement. Footage shows the dead whale was later covered by a blue tarpaulin.
Frydenberg said Australia will continue to press its strong opposition to whaling at the International Whaling Commission.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)