NZ and Australia furious over Japan whaling move

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionRupert Wingfield-Hayes: "Japan says it will redesign its scientific whaling programme"

Australia and New Zealand have heavily criticised Japanese leader Shinzo Abe's statement that he wanted to resume an annual whale hunt in the Antarctic.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Mr Abe's comments were "unfortunate and unhelpful".

Mr McCully and Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt urged Japan to abide by international rulings on the issue.

In March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to withdraw authorisation for its Antarctic hunt.

The court ruled that the whaling programme was not for scientific purposes, as Japan had argued.

Japan has said it will redesign the programme.

Australia, backed by New Zealand, brought the case against Japan in 2010.

Japan had stopped the hunt in the Antarctic after the ruling but vessels have carried on hunting Minke whales along Japan's northern coast.

Japan says these are also for research purposes.

Legal routes to whaling

  • Objection - A country formally objects to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, declaring itself exempt. Example: Norway
  • Scientific - A nation issues unilateral "scientific permits"; any IWC member can do this. Example: Japan
  • Indigenous (aka Aboriginal subsistence) - IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food. Example: Alaskan Inupiat

Guide to the Great Whales

Mr McCully said it was unclear what Mr Abe was proposing in the short term.

But he added: "The fact that he has told a parliamentary committee that he wants to aim towards the resumption of commercial whaling is both unfortunate and unhelpful.

"The decision of the ICJ laid down clear guidelines for any research whaling activities in the future."

Japan is a signatory to a 1986 moratorium on whaling, but had continued whaling under provisions that allowed for scientific research.

Norway and Iceland rejected the provision and continued commercial whaling.

More on this story