The Australian Federal Police has given back 70 hours of Animal Planet video footage confiscated when the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin docked in Hobart in February.
The police action had been in response to Japan’s complaints to the Australian Government that the Steve Irwin was guilty of piracy on the high seas for blocking the actions of the whaling fleet.
A Sea Shepherd Australia spokesman said the videos had been returned and Animal Planet will be showing Whale Wars II in late May.
“There are no warrants or restraints on the ship or any of the crew,” he said. “No details are available on what the AFP is doing right now, but Captain Paul Watson is prepared to return to Australia to face any charges that may yet be laid. He is currently in North America trying to stop the annual slaughter of fur seals in the Canadian Arctic.”
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society noted on its website that Japan had resumed whale meat imports: “Norway and Iceland are unlawfully shipping Fin and Minke whale meat to Japan, and Japan is making illegal purchases of this meat. In response to this, other nations are saying nothing or sending mild letters of protest. Enforcement is non-existent. This is the first time since 1988 that whale meat has been traded.”
Japanese officials authorised the import of 5.6 tonnes of Minke whale from Norway, but tests showed the meat contained high levels of mercury. Officials said only cooked whale meat could be sold.
Meanwhile, Environment Minister Peter Garrett told the newly-formed Southern Ocean Non-Lethal Research Partnership (SORP) in Sydney last week it was necessary to develop a scientific approach “that doesn’t involve killing whales”.
SORP includes representatives from the International Whaling Commission, Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
Dr Natalie Kelly from the CSIRO presented the meeting with new data on Minke whale distribution in the Southern Ocean, after the first-ever Australian aerial whale survey in December.
“New equipment installed in our aircraft helps detect whales hidden by the ice, opening the way for a really comprehensive count of Minke whales in Antarctic waters,” she said.
Dr Nick Gales of the Australian Marine Mammal Centre said ship-based surveys in the Southern Ocean had found a decline in Minke whale populations over the past two decades. He said the Japanese whale hunt in the Southern Ocean mainly targeted Minke whales.
– BY JEREMY BROWN