SYDNEY – Australia said Monday it is “deeply disappointed” that Japan has continued whaling in the Southern Ocean after anti-whaling activists published a photograph of a dead whale 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 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Sydney on Saturday, sources familiar with the talks said.
“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 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 the government to suspend the hunt for one season, though it resumed in 2015.
The government maintains that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale is part of Japanese culture. The government started what it calls scientific whaling in 1987, a year after an international whaling moratorium took effect.
The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd published a photograph Sunday of what it said was a minke whale on the deck of the whaling ship Nisshin Maru. The whale appeared to have been punctured by a harpoon. Sea Shepherd claimed 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 with a blue tarp.
Frydenberg said Australia will continue to press its strong opposition to whaling at the International Whaling Commission.