The Japanese whaling vessel, responsible for sinking the New Zealand-regA protected Humpback Whale, one of the target-species of the Japanese whale poaching operations. Photo: Tim WattersA protected Humpback Whale, one of the target-species of the Japanese whale poaching operations. Photo: Tim Wattersistered trimaran Ady Gil in 2010, entered the 200 nautical mile-limit of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the early hours of Saturday morning, despite a request from the New Zealand government not to do so.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully has called the Japanese whaling operations “repugnant” to New Zealanders, and has indicated that the incursion of the Shonan Maru No. 2 into New Zealand waters may have “relationship consequences” for New Zealand and Japan.

Of the whaling operations, Minister McCully told Radio New Zealand, “there is no good science that comes from these actions and when warehouses across Japan are full of frozen meat, the market there is speaking for itself.”

A representative for the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), the organisation behind the Japanese whaling operations, has told Radio New Zealand that the Shonan Maru No. 2 acted with full approval from the Japanese government, saying, “None of the moves that are being made by the vessels, the Japanese vessels, are done without the approval of the Japanese government.”

In the same interview, the ICR indicated that the Shonan Maru No. 2, along with the all of the ships in the Japanese whaling fleet, have both Japanese Coast Guard and Japanese Police on board.

At present, the exact location of the Shonan Maru No. 2 is unknown. However, from the time The Steve Irwin lost radar contact with the whaling vessel, it would take the ship 24 hours to leave New Zealand’s EEZ. Consequently, the security vessel is still in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, in defiance of Minister McCully’s request.

The Steve Irwin leaves Dunedin, tail-free. Photo: Eliza MuirheadThe Steve Irwin leaves Dunedin, tail-free. Photo: Eliza MuirheadCaptain of The Steve Irwin, Siddharth Chakravarty, said, “It’s a sad statement that, for the sole reason of protecting a whale poaching operation, a decision has been made from within the Japanese government to ignore a request from New Zealand’s government and to cause this insult to the entire nation of New Zealand. Japan has steered clear of Australia’s EEZ, yet did not extend the same courtesy when a specific request was made by New Zealand. This is a disrespect of the highest order, and indicative of Japan’s defiance in the face of international law and diplomacy, which sees them continue their whale poaching operations in an internationally recognised Whale Sanctuary.”

Captain Chakravarty has also confirmed that his ship is now free of the tailing Shonan Maru No. 2 and is able to resume the hunt for the Japanese whaling fleet’s factory ship, the Nisshin Maru.

The Japanese whaling fleet is operating in the Southern Ocean violation of the 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling, and in contravention of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established in 1994.

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