New Zealand can put pressure on Japan's whale hunt this year by sending an offshore patrol vessel to monitor the hunt and ensure the safety of protest vessels, the Green Party said today.
The Green Party was responding to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully's comments on Q&A yesterday. Mr McCully has told the Japanese Government that New Zealanders will be watching what they do this whaling season.
"The best place to watch the Japanese whaling fleet is in a Navy vessel right alongside them," said Green Party oceans spokesperson Gareth Hughes.
"This year's planned whale hunt will take place within the search and rescue zone of the Southern Ocean that New Zealand is responsible for monitoring. Given the past behaviour of the Japanese whale fleet, we have another legitimate reason to be observing the hunt — ocean safety.
"The presence of a New Zealand patrol vessel would serve as a restraint on all parties while signalling to the Japanese people our serious wish to protect these rare and wonderful marine mammals," said Mr Hughes.
The Japanese whaling fleet are making preparations to depart within the next few weeks for the Southern Oceans to begin their annual whale hunt. This year, they plan to kill a further 935 Minke whales.
"There is a very high potential for things to go wrong in an extremely hostile natural environment, where human emotions are running high," Mr Hughes said.
"Protest action is essential for progress on whaling. Diplomacy alone will not secure the protection of whales."
The three main whaling nations — Japan, Norway, and Iceland — annually kill about 3,000 whales, 10 times as many as in 1993.