SYDNEY • Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd warned Japan against resuming "research" whaling in the Antarctic, while also calling on the Australian government to intervene.
After a decade of activism by Sea Shepherd, Japan was forced to abandon its 2014 to 2015 Southern Ocean hunt after the International Court of Justice said the annual expedition was a commercial activity masquerading as research.
But on Saturday, Japanese media said it would start again next year, despite global regulators calling for more evidence that the expeditions have a scientific purpose.
"The pristine waters of the Southern Ocean are once again under threat from poachers," said Sea Shepherd chief executive Alex Cornelissen. "We would like to remind the Japanese government that the whales of the Southern Ocean are protected by international law, by Australian law and by Sea Shepherd. As such, any violation of the sanctity of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary or the Australian Whale Sanctuary will be regarded as a criminal act."
Sea Shepard's main ship, the Steve Irwin, is docked in Melbourne and the group did not say whether it would chase Japanese whalers again. Japanese media said the Japanese fleet could depart possibly by the end of December.
Australia has led efforts to persuade Japan to halt whaling, and Sea Shepherd called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to use diplomacy to ensure it does not resume. NHK had reported that Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could meet Mr Turnbull in Tokyo in December for a summit.
Despite international disapproval, Japan has hunted whales in the Southern Ocean under an exemption that allows for research, but makes no secret of the fact that meat from the mammals - killed ostensibly for research - is processed into food.