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NZealand air force to monitor Japanese whalers: defence minister

This handout received 15 February, 2007 from Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research shows the research base vessel, Nisshin-maru, part of Japan's Whale Research Program in the western north Pacific. One crewman was missing after fire erupted on the Japanese whaling ship Nisshin-maru in icy Antarctic waters 15 February, 2007, following weeks of running battles between the hunters and militant environmentalists. The ship sent out a distress call before dawn, saying most of the crew had abandoned ship, with a few staying on board to fight the fire. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Wellington (AFP) Nov 30, 2008
The New Zealand air force is to track the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctic waters this season, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp announced Sunday.

New Zealand also urged both whalers and anti-whaling protesters to show restraint after a series of clashes on the high seas last year.

The Japanese fleet sets sail in mid-November and the Sea Shepherd activists, who have vowed to stop the whaling, are sending their vessel "Steve Irwin" into the area.

In a joint statement, Mapp and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said they did not want the situation to get out of hand.

"Protesters and whalers alike need to appreciate that the Southern Ocean is a remote and inhospitable stretch of ocean. Both sides need to be fully aware of the dangers, and act responsibly," McCully said.

"We're urging all parties to refrain from any actions that may put their lives, or the lives of others at risk."

Mapp said the New Zealand Defence Force would not station craft in the region to monitor developments, but "regular Orion surveillance flights will provide updates."

McCully said New Zealand remains firmly opposed to the Japanese whaling programme and he made that "unambiguously clear" to Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone at the recent APEC summit in Peru.

"We are actively engaged in a diplomatic process including through the International Whaling Commission, to try to find a resolution to the problem," he said.

Japan aims to kill 1,000 whales a year using a loophole in a 1986 global whaling moratorium that allows "lethal research" on the ocean giants.

But last season they were restricted to just over half their target because of harassment by ani-whaling activists.

Tokyo says whaling is part of its culture but makes no secret the meat ends up on dinner tables.

It argues that Western opponents of whaling are insensitive to Japan's culture of whaling. But few Japanese eat whale on a regular basis and surveys show that many young people are questioning the hunt.

earlier related report
72 whales die in mass stranding in Australia: official
Seventy-two whales have died after becoming stranded on rocks in southern Australia, one week after 53 of the giant animals died nearby in a similar beaching, an official said Sunday.

The long-finned pilot whales are believed to have beached themselves at the rocky and remote Sandy Cape on the west coast of the southern island of Tasmania on Saturday.

"There are 72 deceased animals," Chris Arthur of Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service told AFP.

Arthur said rescuers had shepherded 32 more whales, which had been trapped in a channel offshore among reefs, to safety using a small boat and these animals were now swimming strongly.

Tasmanian officials were alerted to the beaching early Saturday and a helicopter inspection of the remote area showed that 12 were still alive, despite being badly cut by the rocks.

A rescue team reached the area Sunday but found only two of the pilot whales, which can reach up to more than seven metres (20 feet) in length and weigh up to three tonnes, alive.

"There were two alive in the rocky shore, but they died earlier this afternoon," Arthur said.

Rescuers had been afraid that the whales would not survive the night as they would have thrashed heavily on the rocks, unlike the 64 animals which beached on a sandy Tasmanian beach the previous week.

Eleven of those animals were saved after they were transported to another beach and dragged into deep water.

"On sand they tend to lie fairly quietly but when they land on rocks and in amongst boulders they thrash, they cut themselves. There's a lot of blood loss," the parks and wildlife service's Rosemary Gales told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday.

"We know from previous experience that when pilot whales strand on rocks, which these ones have, they die very quickly."

There are a number of whale strandings in Tasmania every year, but there is debate among scientists over causes the animals to beach themselves.

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Japanese whalers set sail: Greenpeace
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 17, 2008
Japan's whaling fleet set sail Monday, environmentalists said, apparently on an annual Antarctic hunt likely to provoke fresh friction with anti-whaling countries such as Australia.

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