WASHINGTON – Antiwhaling nations have urged environmental activists to refrain from any action that could endanger human life as Japan’s fleet prepares to set sail for its contentious annual hunt in Antarctic waters.
In a joint statement released Thursday by the U.S. State Department, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands said they respect the right to peaceful protests but would resort to the force of law against any “unlawful activity.”
The four nations “jointly condemn any actions that imperil human life at sea during the 2012-2013 (Antarctic) Ocean whaling season,” the statement said, in line with messages issued in previous years.
The four also called on the vessels’ operators to ensure safety on the high seas.
The hardline environmental group Sea Shepherd each year disrupts the activities of Japan’s whaling fleet, which continues to cull the ocean giants through a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium that allows “lethal research.”
Sea Shepherd has vowed to fight a recent injunction from a U.S. court that, in response to Japan’s complaints, ordered the group to remain at least 500 yards (457 meters) from the whaling vessels.