Japan caught more than 100 whales last year in the Southern Ocean for what the country calls scientific research. Those ships will continue whaling, but they’ll now do so under the watchful gaze of an Australian surveillance plane.
The Australian government hopes the plane will prevent further conflicts between the whalers and environmentalists, The Guardian reports.
But according to a campaign group, officials broke an election promise by sending an aircraft, rather than ships, to monitor the Japanese whalers. They described the decision as “weak,” claiming the focus should be on stopping the practice.
“They haven’t got the guts to go down there and do it,” Jeff Hansen, managing director of the environmental group Sea Shepherd Australia, told the BBC.
Sea Shepherd Australia sent three ships to the Southern Ocean to stop the whalers, who are already on their way to the hunting grounds around the Antarctic for the annual whaling season.
Although there is a worldwide ban on whaling, Japan took advantage of a provision last year that allows groups to capture the animals for scientific research. But the Australian government doesn’t buy it—it believes the Japanese are engaged in commercial whaling and it took the case to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. The court will likely determine whether the whaling is illegal next year.