On the 7th of December 2015, Sea Shepherd Australia Limited instructed EDO NSW to submit a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection seeking photographs and video footage of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2008.
In 2008, the Australian Customs patrol vessel Oceanic Viking along with A319 aerial surveillance flights, documented the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica. Limited photo and video evidence of the illegal killing of Minke whales was initially released to the media by Australian authorities but subsequent attempts to access the full range of evidence gathered have been denied.
In 2012, 2013 and 2014, EDO NSW made FOI requests for the evidence that were refused on the grounds that disclosure could:
- Negatively impact on the Australia v Japan proceedings, which were being heard in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the time; and
- Damage international relations with Japan
In the wake of the ICJ Ruling against Japan, when Japan’s whaling program was ruled unlawful, Sea Shepherd and EDO NSW submitted a new FOI request as previous grounds for refusal in reference to the ICJ court ruling were no longer relevant.
The statutory time in which a decision on an FOI request is to be made is 30 days. However, an agency may request to extend this time frame. On the 24th of April 2016, the Japanese whaling fleet returned to Tokyo after having slaughtered 333 Minke whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, including the Australian Whale Sanctuary, in contravention of international law and in contempt of an Australian Federal Court contempt ruling. On the 29th of April 2016, more than four-and-a-half months after the FOI request was made, Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd and EDO NSW received notification that the request for disclosure had been refused with reference to the “damage” that such images could cause to Australia’s international relations.
“Not only does the Turnbull Government continue to fail to live up to pre-election promises to send an Australian Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean to document Japan’s illegal whaling activities, but it refuses to even release documentation of the barbarity of whaling taken 8 years ago. That the Government continues to pander to Japan, despite Japan’s wanton disregard for the International Court of Justice, is shocking”, said Managing Director Jeff Hansen.
“In 2009, a Sea Shepherd helicopter recorded the Japanese whaling fleet harpoon a female Minke whale. It took 23 minutes and 40 seconds from the time that she was harpooned to the time that she finally drowned in her own blood. We can only begin to imagine the horrors that are locked away in historical vaults in Canberra. The Australian public needs to be reminded that despite successful court action at the International Court of Justice, cruelty and criminality continues unimpeded in Australia’s backyard”, said Captain Peter Hammarstedt, Chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd.
Sea Shepherd Australia Ltd and EDO NSW are currently exploring grounds for additional review.
You can view FOI response here: