The Yushin Maru No. 3, one of three harpoon ships of the Japanese whaling fleet, is currently approaching the 200 nautical mile limit of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding Macquarie Island, and entering the Australian Whale Sanctuary. The ship is tailing the Sea Shepherd long-range vessel, The Bob Barker.
If the harpoon ship enters the Australian Whale Sanctuary, it runs the risk of contempt proceedings as a result of the Japanese whaling fleet’s continued breach of the 2008 Australian Federal Court injunction, handed down in the case instigated by Humane Society International.
In its decision, the Federal Court found that the Japanese whaling operation had contravened Australian Federal Law, and had “killed, injured, taken and interfered with Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) and injured, taken and interfered with humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in contravention of sections 229, 229A, 229B and 229C of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).”
Sea Shepherd Australia has notified the Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, of the approaching harpoon ship, calling for the Australian government’s intervention. Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director Jeff Hansen has stated, "Sea Shepherd is asking Greg Hunt and the Abbott government to have the guts to stand up to these whale poachers and send a clear message to Tokyo, that they are not welcome in the Australian Whale Sanctuary."
As yet, Mr. Hunt has not released a public response to Sea Shepherd’s request.
In January 2013, Shonan Maru No. 2, the security vessel of the Japanese whaling fleet, entered Australia’s EEZ in contempt of Australian Federal Law. The then-Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, ordered the Japanese government to remove their vessel from Australian waters.
Captain of The Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, stated, “Just days ago, we collected undeniable proof that the Japanese whaling fleet is illegally slaughtering whales in an international whale sanctuary. These callous killers, who were captured on film with the butchered remains of a slain whale on their blood-stained decks, are now approaching the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Their presence here is illegal, their actions are immoral, and they need to be turned away immediately.”
Late last year, Mr. Hunt reneged on his pre-election promise to send an Australian Customs ship to the Southern Ocean to monitor the illegal whale hunt. Instead, the Australian government has committed to send an A319 aircraft, operated by Australian Customs personnel, to monitor the poaching operations of the Japanese whaling fleet.
On Monday, The Steve Irwin and The Sam Simon chased the Nisshin Maru north and away from Japan’s self-imposed hunting grounds in the Southern Ocean. The Sea Shepherd Fleet remains vigilant, currently patrolling the Southern Ocean for the whale poachers.