Japanese Whaling Fleet On The Run
The future of Japan's Antarctic industry hangs in the balance, writes Andrew Darby.
IN THE shadows of intent, somewhere between harmless fireworks and deadly force, lies the whaling conflict in the Antarctic.
At one end of this spectrum are the stink bombs thrown against water jets. At the other is the near fatal collision involving the Ady Gil.
Among all this piratical colour and movement, decisive moments of a decades-long struggle can pass little noticed.
Such was the case last week when a bizarre fleet manoeuvre formed in the Southern Ocean.
Three black ships of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society took up positions around a red fuel tanker and escorted it out of the Antarctic. Skulking in their wakes were two of the three harpoon-equipped whale hunter ships in the Japanese fleet.
The hunter ships had been tagging the black ships for two weeks, instead of harpooning whales.
Sea Shepherd's Neptune's Navy had tracked them down on New Year's Eve, only hours after they reached their whaling grounds.
The factory ship Nisshin Maru, together with the third harpoon boat, gave the activists the slip. But the two hunters were ordered to keep tabs on Sea Shepherd, presumably to inform the Nisshin Maru so it could keep clear.
Now that the Sea Shepherd ships had locked on to the tanker Sun Laurel, the conservationists claimed to have found the fleet's Achilles heel. If Nisshin Maru could not refuel, Japan's whalers would have to cut their season short.
Neptune's Navy came one step closer to ruling the waves.
It was further evidence that, after spending 23 years killing about 10,000 Antarctic minkes in the name of science, Japan's whalers are increasingly embattled.
They have seen the collapse of International Whaling Commission talks that might have given them a legitimate Antarctic kill, and taken a series of hits at home.
They had to share official blame for the Ady Gil shipwreck and were forced to apologise for running a whale-meat black market. In the legal trade the Japanese consumer appetite for their product is at best lukewarm.
Falling meat sales are stretching the finances of Japan's whaling agency, the Institute of Cetacean Research. And in the same way that tax laws finally caught up with the US gangster Al Capone, marine regulations are encircling Nisshin Maru, the world's last factory whaling ship.
The hopes of long-time opponents, such as Patrick Ramage, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, are rising. ''What I sense now is that the whaling industry is in its death throes,'' Ramage says.
The global politics of whaling shifted at a crucial International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco in June, when the dispute between pro- and anti-whaling governments came to a head.
Of all the issues dividing the 88-member Whaling Commission, none is more sensitive than Japan's Antarctic whaling. A scheme to resolve this split emerged before the Morocco meeting, after three years of secretive wrangling between central commission countries, including Australia.
Its chairman, Cristian Maquieira, of Chile, offered a proposal to reduce Japan's quotas for five years from its present maximum of 935 minke whales to 400, and from 50 fin whales to 10; both these numbers were to halve again for the following five years.
To some anti-whaling governments, including the US, it was a potential face-saver for Japan to phase out Antarctic whaling. New Zealand's representative on the Whaling Commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, memorably said everyone would have to ''swallow the dead rat'' of compromise.
But the best Australia would offer Tokyo was a phase-out of whaling within five years. A US diplomatic cable revealed a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade official complaining that greater compromise efforts ''bounced off'' the then environment minister, Peter Garrett.
Japan gave no indication it would be prepared to reduce numbers to an acceptable level, and the talks stalled.
Key negotiators have since left the Whaling Commission, including Palmer. (He now has what some might think an easier job - chairing a United Nations inquiry into the Gaza protest flotilla killings by Israeli soldiers last year.)
The main diplomatic game is shifting to Australia's International Court of Justice case against Japan. Advocates see strong opportunities to expose Japanese whaling before a new global audience in May, when Australia's full case, or ''memorial'', is outlined to the court.
''This case presents a real chance to expose Japan's whaling once and for all as a sham and an abuse of its rights at the IWC,'' says Mick McIntyre, from the group Whales Alive.
The WikiLeaks disclosure of US diplomatic cables revealed Australian cabinet division over the wisdom of this case, which will take years. But it undeniably demonstrates that the whaling issue is shifting from an incapable Whaling Commission and into the hands of other umpires.
The most thorough inquiry into the Ady Gil collision was conducted by Maritime New Zealand, acting as investigator for the wrecked ship's flag state. It recorded black marks against both sides.
It found the Japanese security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 had a responsibility to keep clear of the Ady Gil and had ample opportunity to do so. It also found the Ady Gil's skipper, Pete Bethune, failed to keep his vessel clear. His helmsman had limited visibility and did not see the Japanese boat until seconds before the impact.
This season Shonan Maru No. 2 was left out of the fleet. Bethune split acrimoniously from Sea Shepherd over its refusal to take him south again.
The Fisheries Agency of Japan also took an official hit over its officials' role in a fraudulent whale-meat trade exposed by Greenpeace. Recently the agency made a formal public apology for the loss of thousands of dollars' worth of meat, and censured five staff.
In Japan, where official corruption is consistently big news, damage to the whaling industry's image is significant, says Junichi Sato, of Greenpeace. ''Whaling was considered untouchable in the past,'' Sato said. ''Now this is just another corrupted operation.''
Sato was prosecuted with another man for shining a light on this trade by taking a box of whale meat and giving it to the authorities. They are appealing against their convictions.
He continues to watch the industry, despite the difficulty of making an impact on the government. The ruling Democratic Party of Japan is preoccupied with its own survival, and the Fisheries Agency still calls the shots. Asked whether Greenpeace could gain any engagement with the Democratic Party, Sato points to the fast-changing ministerial chairs and says: ''No. Not at all. It's horrible.''
However, he believes the Institute of Cetacean Research is in difficult financial straits. Two years ago, the Japanese fleet was seven ships strong. This year it has four. The whalers were also three weeks late reaching the Antarctic, and plan a much shorter season.
''I don't think they can afford to pay for a longer period,'' Sato said. ''They have a subsidy of about 800 million yen [$9.7 million] but they are missing revenue on whale-meat sales.''
Whale meat's popularity in Japan is hotly disputed. Its fans in a sprinkling of restaurants defend it; opponents believe it is increasingly seen as a throwback.
David Stevenson, a pro-whaling blogger who tracks the whale-meat trade from published Japanese data, found incoming stock more or less matched the outgoing for much of the past decade.
But consumption fell sharply in 2009. There are indications from Japanese environmentalists that consumption also fell last year. Stevenson argues this is a result of the global financial crisis. Others say more Japanese are rejecting it.
In any case, due to Sea Shepherd's obstruction, there is less whale meat reaching the docks and, as a result, less revenue to offset the institute's costs. Last year the activists cost the whalers 31 days of their season - almost a third - though they managed to catch 506 minkes and one fin whale. This year a much worse figure threatens.
On top of this short-term financial squeeze looms a greater strategic problem. The heavy fuel oil used by Nisshin Maru will be outlawed in the Antarctic by the International Maritime Organisation from August. The institute has given no indication of its intentions but Japan is one of the world's leading maritime nations and is regarded as highly compliant.
The 23-year-old Nisshin Maru may need a multimillion-dollar refit, or a government decision could be forced on whether to replace it. This is a nightmare scenario for whaling's opponents, who see a new ship as entrenching the industry for decades.
Without it, some believe whaling may quietly die, particularly if the fires of its supporters are not stoked by Sea Shepherd's direct action.
The Institute of Cetacean Research describes Sea Shepherd as ''terroristic''. But in technique its leader, Paul Watson, has more in common with Julius Caesar than al-Qaeda. Leading from the front, he besieges whaling. He believes the best way to end the hunt is to strangle its resources, and the rope appears to be tightening.
Attempt To Charge Conservationists
The federal government, acting under heavy diplomatic pressure from Japan, explored taking legal action against the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd.
Tokyo angrily strengthened demands for Australia's co-operation against further ''sabotage'' of its whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean after the Ady Gil collision, declassified documents show.
In 2009 and last year the government considered grounds for legal action. It found it could not ban Sea Shepherd ships from Australian ports or detain them.
However, both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Japanese embassy, using an international convention against terrorism at sea, required the Australian Federal Police to undertake a criminal investigation of Sea Shepherd's activities. This investigation is continuing.
Revelations of the Foreign Affairs liaison with Japan follow a disclosure by WikiLeaks that a Foreign Affairs official was confident the whalers would ''come away clean'' from the collision in which the security ship Shonan Maru No. 2 sliced the bow off Sea Shepherd's Ady Gil.
The only official investigation to attribute responsibility for the shipwreck, by Maritime New Zealand, recorded black marks against the skippers of the Ady Gil and the Shonan Maru No. 2.
Censored Foreign Affairs documents were released to the Greens leader, Bob Brown, on appeal in a freedom-of-information request, after he was denied access to papers relating to federal police searches of Sea Shepherd ships.
''This shows a double standard that puts Japan above Sea Shepherd,'' Senator Brown said. ''It's a disgraceful commentary that cuts across common legal prudence.''
The Foreign Affairs documents show a flurry of diplomatic activity after the collision last January. Japan demanded action against Sea Shepherd ships when they returned to Australia to refuel during their campaign and again at the end of the whaling season.
Talks reached a climax during a protest to the Foreign Affairs secretary, Dennis Richardson, in Canberra by the visiting Japanese state secretary for foreign affairs, Tetsuro Fukuyama.
A senior legal adviser to the Australian department, Penny Richards, said in a confidential ministerial submission that Australia was obliged to act under the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, because the Ady Gil's crew had returned to the country.
''We are not making a judgment about whether the Ady Gil was responsible for the collision with the Shonan Maru No. 2 but the fact of the collision makes both crews 'alleged offenders' for the purposes of the SUA convention,'' she said.
She said the Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General's departments told the AFP it should mount a criminal inquiry, and Japan followed up separately.
Amazing Disentanglement Of North Atlantic Right Whale
Scientists from NOAA Fisheries Service and its state and nonprofit partners successfully used at-sea chemical sedation to help cut the remaining ropes from a young North Atlantic Right Whale off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. The sedative given to the whale allowed the disentanglement team to safely approach the animal and remove 50 feet of rope which was wrapped through its mouth and around its flippers.
This is only the second time a free swimming whale has been successfully sedated to enable disentanglement efforts. The first time a whale was successfully sedated and disentangled was in March 2009 off the coast of Florida.
"Our recent progress with chemical sedation is important because it's less stressful for the animal, and minimizes the amount of time spent working on these animals while maximizing the effectiveness of disentanglement operations, " said Jamison Smith, Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Coordinator for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "This disentanglement was especially complex, but proved successful due to the detailed planning and collective expertise of the many response partners involved."
The young female whale, born during the 2008-2009 calving seand and estimated to be approximately 30 feet long, was originally observed entangled on Christmas Day by an aerial survey team. On 30 December, a disentanglement team of trained responders from Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were able to remove 150 feet of rope from the whale, but additional rope remained. NOAA and its partners continued to track the animal via a satellite tag to determine if the animal would shed the remianing gear on its own. Calm weather conditions were necessary before attempting further intervention on 15 January.
During this response, scientists used for the first time a special digital monitoring tag which recorded the whale's behaviour before, during and after sedation. Sedating large whales at sea is in its infancy and data collected from the digital archival tag will be used to inform future sedation attempts that may be necessary. After disentangling the whale, scientists administered a dose of antibiotics to treat entanglement wounds and drug to reverse the sedation. The whale will be tracked up to 30 days via a temporty satellite tag.
The disentanglement and veterinarian team consisted of scientists from NOAA Fisheries Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of Florida, EcoHealth Alliance and Coastwise Consulting. The Provincetown Centre of Coastal Studies and the New England Aquarium also provided offsite support.
Fishing gear removed from this whale included ropes and wire mesh material, similar to what is found in the trap or pot fisheries for fish, crab and lobster along the mid-Atlantic, northeast US and Canadian coasts. However, the specific fishery and its geographic origin are pending examination by experts at NOAA's Fisheries Service.
With only 300-400 in existence, North Atlantic Right Whales are among the most endangered whales in the world. They are protected under the US Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fixed fishing gear are the two greatest threats to their recovery.
Thanks to NOAA Fisheries Service
It's Over It's Over It's Over
The whales are now jumping for joy as they watch the Japanese whale killers leave their Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.
Yes it's official, the Japanese whale killer ships the Yushin Maru No1, No2 & No3 and the floating slaughterhouse butcher ship the approx 8,500 tons the Nishin Maru and the hired Panamanian registered supply ship the Sun Laurel, have been forced out of the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary by Paul Watson and a crew of 88 conservationists and their 3 ships.
An amazing feat in Antarctic Ice and a saving of over 900 whales. The Japanese whale killer ships set out to kill over 1000 of our prehistoric, sentient wonderful endangered and protected whales, but very unfortunately, with one killer whale ship the Yushin Maru No1 and the butcher ship the Nishin Maru, the cruel Japs working around the clock managed to horrificly slaughter approx 172 whales, 172 whales too many, 172 whales never to be replaced. People all over the world are now saying to Japan, leave the whales alone forever.
Will the Japs leave the whales alone? we will not know until the end of the year, to see if the Japanese whale killer fleet leaves for the Antarctic Sanctuary for whales with one main objective, to kill. We hope they don't, we hope common sense will prevail.
It must have been major for the Japanese government to call back the entire whale slaughter fleet. The government gave about 800,000 yen in subsidies to the whale killing programme and the whole cost of the whaling operation, wait for it! yes, cost 6 billion yen a year. The Japanese people are now questioning the government and saying "why are you killing whales, when we don't want to eat whale meat and we have a dwindling economy"? because of the whale and dolphin killing, lots of people around the world, are boycotting Japanese goods, if Japan see's sense and now takes this opportunity to put an end to it's large mammel killing programme, we would wish Japan, a speedy return of its lost business, due to the horrific slaughter of whales and dolphins.
A high price to pay for unwanted whale meat and the slaughtering of dolphins to eat or capture for a cruel life in zoo's. "remember the whale fim Free Willy".
One of the largest newspapers in Japan the Daily Yomiuri says, "Antarctic whaling is on the verge of disappearing" and they also go on to say, "that the whaling crews were worn out by being harassed and chased by conservationists at sea".
Amazing things for a Japanese newspaper to say.
Diplomats Quick To Put Japan In The Clear Over Sinking
Australian diplomats were quick to absolve Japanese whalers of blame for the crash that sank the anti-whaling vessel Ady Gil a year ago, telling the US embassy in Canberra the Japanese would "come away clean" from any investigation.
Leaked US embassy cables reveal that the Department of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to blame anit-whaling protesters for the collision in the Southern Ocean on 6th January 2010 between the Ady Gil and the whaler Shonan Maru No 2.
An initial report by the US embassy on that day noted that while there were no reported casualties, the collision was "a major escalation of the confrontation over whaling in the Southern Ocean "that would" increase public and opposition pressure on the Australian government to more actively confront Japan."
Against the backdrop of the Rudd government's efforts to negotiate a settlement that would allow a limited continuation of Japanese whaling, the embassy further noted that "if Japan is at fault, the incident will further chill Australia's diplomatic engagement on whaling."
The cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, show New Zealand was at odds with Australia in its initial assessment of the incident.
New Zealand Foreign Ministry officials told the US embassy in Wellington that it was not clear which vessel was to blame for the crash that resulted in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Ady Gil being abandoned and scuttled.
The officials said the New Zealand government was "not making any judgment as to who was at fault for the collision, regardless of the public accusations and finger pointing in the press that both sides in the incident are currently engaged in."
As the Ady Gil was a New Zealand flagged vessel, the New Zealand government had undertaken a preliminary investigation but the Foreign Ministry's initial assessment was that "it is not clear which party is at fault."
But on the day after the crash, the Department of Foreign Affairs did not hesitate to attribute blame.
After discussions with Australian diplomats, the US embassy in Canberra reported to Washington: "The initial video evidence of the collision between a Japanese whaling ship and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel Ady Gil strongly suggests that the Ady Gil stopped or slowed significantly in the path of the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru at close range and that the Japanese vessel's actions could be consistent with trying to avoid a collision."
Paula Watt, the director of the marine environment section at Foreign Affairs, told the embassy that while maritime safety authorities would make a final finding, she was confident the Japanese would "come away clean". The embassy said such a result would be "hard to swallow" for the Australian public.
"Already frustrated with the inability of the Rudd government to stop or reduce whaling in the Southern Ocean, public outcry over the incident has been heavily one sided and stoked by the opposition," it said.
The embassy did not doubt that Australia would conduct a careful inquiry into the crash and any potential violations of international or Australian Law.
"Given the pressure they are already under on this issue in an election year, any determination of the facts by Australian authorities will be scrutinised by all sides. The truth about the collision is unlikely to emerge quickly, the inquiry would be hard pressed to avoid influence by foreign policy or domestic political calculus," the embassy's cable concluded. A subsequent investigation by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was inconclusive and unable to assign blame.
The authority was unable to verify claims by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that the Shonan Maru had steered deliberately into the Ady Gil and Japan declined to participate in the investigation, saying any information it had might be needed for an inquiry by its authorities.
New Zealand maritime authorities eventually found that both vessels were at fault. Maritime New Zealand found that the Shonan Maru should have kept clear of the Ady Gil under international collision regulations and had ample opportunity to avoid hitting it.
It also found that the Ady Gil failed to take evasive action and its helmsman did not see the Japanese ship bearing down on it moments before the impact.
Foreign Affairs Chase Whaling Compromise
The federal government is mounting a determined defence of its whaling policy in the wake of WikiLeaks disclosures that spotlight deep internal rifts over whether to compromise with Japan.
People involved in marathon global peace talks over whaling confirmed yesterday the evidence from leaked US diplomatic cables that the Department of Foreign Affairs was pushing for a deal throughout.
Its officials favoured a bargain that would allow Japan a controlled whaling phase-out in the Antarctic, and resisted the push to take Tokyo to an international court, sources told the Herald.
The cables show a Foreign Affairs official complaing to US diplomats that efforts to strike a deal had "bounced off" the then environment minister, Peter Garrett, who instead had challanged the US led effort to obtain an agreement.
Proposals floated in the peace talks to let Japan whale in the North Pacific, but not in the Antarctic, gained Foreign Affairs backing, according to the cables. Mr Garrett never accepted them, sources said.
Eventually Japan's refusal to phase out its Antarctic hunt, or even substantially reduce it, left the peace talks at a stalemate and Mr Garrett prevailed.
Cabinet agreed to start the legal action now under way at the International Court of Justice and maintained the blanket opposition to whaling held by successive Australian governments for more than 30 years.
The 3 years of peace talks under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission finally hit a wall 6 months ago at its annual meeting in Agadir in Morocco and there have been no efforts to revive them.
Mr Garrett was on leave yesterday and unavailable to comment, the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, refused to comment on the substance of the cables.
However, Mr Burke told reports in Sydney that the ultimate decision of the government at the time was whether what was on offer diplomatically would satisfy Australia.
"Austalia's view was that whaling should end, "Mr Burke said. "Nothing in the diplomtic discussions, as it turned out, was going to bring an end to whaling by Japan. Therefore we took them to court.
"Make no mistake, this is an issue where we have a markedly different view than Japan.
"This is not something where the government, or Australians generally, see a whole lot of grey areas."
The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said the leaks highlighted that there was still far too much silence from Canberra on the whaling issue, he again called for surveillance of the whaling fleet now in Antarctic waters.
Mr Burke said the fleet was still in New Zealand's search and rescue zone, but he left open the prospect of sending a monitoring vessel. "There's been no decision on that at this stage," he said.
The cables also revealed an attempt by the chief US whaling negotiator, Monica Medina, to meet Japanese demands to move against Sea Shepherd activists by stripping the group of its US tax free status.
The Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said he was confident any such attempt would fail. He said the fleet was still running westward last night, north of the Ross Sea. "As long as they're running, that's fine, because no whales are being taken."
Looks LIke a Ramming By The Japs Into Conservationists
The conservationist ship the Gojira in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was stationary at sea taking on supplies when the Japanese Yushin Maru No 2 picked up speed in the close direction of the Gojira, as if to ram it.
The conservationists quickly drove a fast speed boat (rib) towards the back of the killer ship Yushin Maru No 2, they were ready to drop a rope around the Yushin Maru No 2's propeller, which would have stopped the Yushin Marys No 2 approaching and hitting the Gojira.
Last year the Japanese whalers rammed a conservation ship the Ady Gil and cut it in half, there was six people on board.
The fast vessel was working with Paul Watson's conservation group. Another incident saw the Japs prepare a water cannon to aim at the conservationists helicopter which had just landed on a conservation ship. The helicopter crew saw this happening and took off before the hose could start. The Japanese ship was then chased off by a conservation ship.
Japanese Whale Killers Troubling Conservationists
The Japanese whale killer ships, the Yushin Maru No2 and the Yushin Maru No3 have been constantly troubling Paul Watson's conservationist ships in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Japs are continually trailing them and relaying messages to their whale butcher factory ship the Nisshin Maru which is eagerly awaiting a supply of slaughtered whales.
At the moment the Nisshin Maru is seperated from two of it's catcher ships the Yushin Maru 2 and 3. There is only one catcher ship with the Nisshin Maru and it is believed that it has caught no whales as they are fleeing from the conservationists. The third conservation ship the Goijira which is fast will continue to search for the factory ship, after now, finding two of the whale catcher killer vessels.
Doomed Whaling Fight Aimed At Saving Labour Vote
The former prime minister Kevin Rudd launched legal action against Japan's whaling program despite opposition from senior ministers and officials who warned it was likely to fail and strengthen the hand of the Japanese.
Leaked United States diplomatic cables also indicated that the decision to take Japan to the International Court of Justice was designed to divert public pressure on Labour over whaling.
The Department of Foreign Affairs warned that the case against Japan's "scientific" whaling would "either fail completely or, at best, set up the Japanese to simply make changes to their program to improve the science". GreenEcoPeace "There is no science".
A senior Australian diplomat told the Americans that both the then foreign minister Stephen Smith and the trade minister Simon Crean had made clear their opposition to an international legal challenge.
According to the cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, officials told US diplomats that even if successful, legal action against Japan would be "unlikely to stop the whale hunt entirely".
They added that "equally importantly, such action would probably take a long time, removing some of the pressure on the government for the next few years".
The government yesterday attempted to play down earlier revelations that Australia had been prepared to secretly negotiate a compromise to allow continued Japanese whaling.
The acting Attorney General, Brendan O'Connor, said that the ICJ case demonstrated that the government was not soft on whaling. "I think that underlines the seriousness of the matter and the fact that this government ... opposes whaling and will continue to fight through the courts," he said.
But the new embassy cables show that the government's advisers were deeply pessimistic about the prospects of success in any legal action.
In October 2008, as officials were working to develop their case, the US embassy reported to Washington that domestic political considerations were ihigh in Mr Rudd's thinking. It said he was likely to eventually see legal action "as the least damaging politically of his limited choices in dealing with public anger over whaling".
However, the embassy also reported the Foreign Affairs Department's environmental strategies director, David Dutton, had admitted that his department and the Attorney General's Department "had long shared the view that international legal action against Japan's whaling program has a limited chance of success".
Mr Dutton told US diplomats that the Attorney General's Department had £recently done an about face" to argue that the prospects for success at the ICJ were "high enough to justify taking action".
Mr Dutton said the Foreign Affairs analysis was that the only basis for effective action was that Japan's whaling violated the International Whaling Convention because it did not achieve sustantive scientific outcomes.
"Foreign Affairs continues to believe that such a challenge will either fail completely or, at best, set up the Japanese to simply make changes to their program to improve the science," the US embassy reported to Washington.
The cables also reveal that the Rudd cabinet was "very divided" over how to deal with whaling, with the prime minister reported to have been "increasingly worried that the Japanese will forge ahead despite Australian concerns".
The embassy reported that Mr Dutton had said that Mr Smith and Mr Crean "had made clear their opposition to an international legal challenge, but opined that ...DFAT and by extension Mr Smith had ceased to have much relevance in influencing the PM's office on this issue".
When they announced the legal challenge in May 2010, Mr Smith and the then environment minister Peter Garrett said the government had "not taken this decision lightly".
However, the cables also reveal that domestic politics featured prominently from the start of the government's consideration of possible legal action against Japan.
Soon after the election of the Labour government, the embassy reported Australian government contacts were saying that referring Japan's whaling program to the ICJ "would be unlikely to stop the whale hunt entirely, but could well force modifications that would make it more difficult for the Japanese".
The embassy's contacts also suggested that "equally importantly, such action would probably take a long time, removing some of the pressure on the government for the next few years". Australia is not required to file its detailed arguments with the court until May and Japan is not obliged to respond until March next year. A hearing may not take place until 2013.
The leaked cables also reveal Japanese confidence that Australia's legal challenge would fail and vindicate Japan's position
In February 2010 the US embassy reported that the Japanese deputy head of mission in Canberra had observed that the then foreign minister Katsuya Okada had "made clear his growing annoyance with Australian complaints about whaling".
"Okada is very confident that Tokoyo will win a legal challenge and has suggested internally that it would be good for Japan to show that its whaling program is on firm legal ground, "the embassy reported.
The Greens and the opposition yesterday attacked the proposed Australian government compromise with Japan.
The opposition environment spokesman, Greg Hunt, said Labor had damaged Australia's case against Japanese whaling.
"It's absolutely clear that the Australian government was saying one thing publicly and then another thing privately about whaling so as to allow the continued hunting and slaughter of whales, all of the while this was being denied by the government."
The Greens leader, Bob Brown, also said the proposed compromise was "very troubling".
"Hopefully this may help the current government take a stronger line," he said.
He urged the government to use all available legal and diplomatic means, as well as naval surveillance, to increase the pressure on Japan to end the slaughter of whales.
Secret Dealing On Whale Hunt
Australia was secretly prepared to cut a deal with Japan to accept a continued whale hunt even though it publicly moved to haul Tokoyo before an International Court over its "scientific" whaling program.
Us diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks reveal that Australia was willing to compromise with Japan as late as last February 2010, but that any deal must result in a much lower level of whaling and exclude the hunt from waters near Antarctica.
A compromise under which Japan would kill 5000 fewer whales over 10 - provided larger vaieties such as humpback and fin whales were not taken and loopholes to allow so-called scientific whaling were closed - was discussed.
The disclosures come as pressure mounts on the federal government to send its new Southern Ocean patrol ship to watch over the latest confrontation between the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whaling fleet off the Antarctic coast.
The cables show that the then environment minister Peter Garrett warned the US ambassador in Canberra on 5th February 2010 that Labor felt boxed in by moves by the Greens in Parliament to examine Japanese "spy flights" over anti-whaling ships.
Mr Garrett said the flights had strengthened the anti-whaling mood in Australia and made it difficult for the government to compromise with Japan.
A fortnight later and just before a visit by the Japanese foreign minister, the then prime minister Kevin Rudd went on television to say the hunt must be abandoned.
"What we're putting to the Japanese is to take where they are now, which is the slaughter of some hundreds of whales each year, and reduce that to zero," he said on 19th February 2010.
He added that Australia would take Japan to the Interenation Court of Justice over the hunt, which the government has done.
Yesterday WikiLeaks released a selection of the cables on its website and others were provided exclusively to the Sydney Morning Herald. They show the US involvement in the increasingly bitter dispute between Japan and anti-whaling nations, including European countries and Australia.
A cable in 2009 details how US diplomats urged Japan to take "symbolic action" to cut the number of whales killed while promising to "work hard to make sure the (European Union) and Australia do not block a compromise".
The US suggested Japan stop hunting fin whales but Japan told the US Australia's proposal to phase out research whaling was "a non-starter".
In Australia, diplomats were urging their political masters to strike a deal to move past the gridlock at the International Whaling Commission, the key global forum for such negotiations.
Paula Watt, of the marine environment section of the Foreign Affairs Department, told the US last January 2010 that Japan was using tough tactics in the negotiations but that for any deal to be acceptable to Australia it must include a minimum number of whales saved, suggesting 5000 over 10 years.
But a month later she complained to US diplomats that efforts to strike a deal had "bounced off" Mr Garrett and his staff - at the same time as Mr Garrett's chief of staff, David Williams, was telling the US Australia could accept a compromise.
According to a cable from December 2009, Mr Garrett told the US "he was personally more committed to ending whaling than the Foreign Affairs experts negotiating with Japan". He said he did not support negotiating with Japan to allow coastal whaling, especially if it did not stop whaling in the Southern Ocean.
In October 2010 Mr Garrett challenged the US over what he saw as unilateral moves in whaling negotiations and attempts to influence internal deliberations in Australia after a letter from the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to the then foreign minister, Stephen Smith.
Mr Smith's deputy chief of staff, Andrew Dempster, told the US the week before that Australia could accept Japan's continuing the hunt if it cut the number of whales killed in the Southern Ocean.
Australia's dispute with Japan has grown in the past year but in its joint annoncement with New Zealand last month over pursuing Japan in the International Court, the prospect of further negotiations appeared to remain. The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, said there would be a "focus on new diplomatic and communications strategies to try to persuade Japan to end (the) whaling".
Meanwhile, the 4500 tonne Ocean Protector was tied up in Fremantle yesterday and is not due to leave port for a fortnight.
Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Killers
Three Japanese Whale Killing Harpoon Ships have been found in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Yushin Maru, Yushin Maru 2 and the Yushin Maru 3 and it won't be long before the knife slashing factory whale floating abattior factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, is found by helicopter and fast patrol search.
Paul Watson's Shepherd crew of 88 and his 3 ships are the only conservation group that are prepared to risk their lives to stop our precious endangered whales from being stabbed and exploded and then dragged backwards drowning them slowly, then if still alive, the whales are continously shot or even butchered alive on the abattoir factory ship.
There were clashes today between the rogue Japanese whale killers and the conservationists. As the conservationists high speed smaller speedboats (ribs) approached the Japanese killer ships, they were sprayed with ice cold freezing sea water, but it didn't deter them.
Today not one whale has been cruelly slashed open, which leads to it's inside hanging out whilst it is still fully alive and screaming.
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