Australia to Release Whaling Footage


Published May 24, 2017 11:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

Australia's Information Commissioner has decided that the government should release controversial footage of Japanese whaling, after years of lobbying by the Environmental Defenders Office NSW, the Humane Society International and Sea Shepherd.

Back in 2008, as part of Australia’s whaling case against Japan in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking filmed Japan’s whaling fleet chasing, harpooning and killing whales inside the Australian whale sanctuary off the Antarctic coast. This was during the Rudd/Gillard Labor government, and the evidence obtained was used in the ICJ case that led to the ruling on March 31, 2014, that Japan’s whaling program was not scientific.

Australians have every right to see the 2008 public tax funded, customs whaling footage, says Sea Shepherd in a statement. The lobby groups first sought access to the footage in March 2012. Over the past five years, the Australian Government has refused access on the basis that release of the footage would harm its relations with Japan, despite challenging Japan’s whaling program in the International Court of Justice. 

The Information Commissioner has found that such an argument cannot be sustained and ordered the release of the footage. The Australian Government has 28 days to appeal the decision. If there is no appeal the footage will be released.

Nicola Beynon, Head of Campaigns for the Australian Office of Humane Society International, said, “Killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary is a breach of Australian law. The Australian public has a right to see that offense and to know how appalling it is.”

Sea Shepherd Australia’s Managing Director Jeff Hansen stated, "Numerous past polls show that the majority of Australians want an end to whaling in the Australian Antarctic whale sanctuary and they want our government to send a vessel to oppose Japan’s bloody business. 

“However, time and time again, the Australian governments of Labor and Liberal have represented the wishes of Japan and not the people of Australia. Whether this be in the form of Australian Federal Police boarding our ships at the request of Tokyo, or that 'Japan would come away clean' from any investigation into the ramming and sinking of Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Ady Gil, and for five years now, the Australian Government has not allowed Australians to see this whaling footage because Tokyo was angry.”

The Ady Gil and the Japanese whaling support vessel MV Sh?nan Maru 2 collided in the Southern Ocean on January 6, 2010, resulting in loss of the Ady Gil's bow and the injury one crew member. Each side blamed the other for causing the collision, and government agencies began an investigation into the incident. The crew of the Ady Gil were removed from the damaged vessel, and the salvage operation was abandoned, with the vessel sinking the next day.

“The world is now watching, the question now is will the Australian Government appeal this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and further represent the wishes of Tokyo and not those of the Australian people?" asks Hansen.