Australia to start legal action against Japan over whaling

SYDNEY, May 28, 2010 (AFP) – Australia will start legal action to stop Japan hunting whales next week, officials said on Friday, following years of tensions over the annual slaughter in waters near Antarctica. Documents will be submitted to the International Court of Justice in The Hague “early next week”, after repeated threats of proceedings during recent months.

“We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean,” said Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett.

“Today’s announcement of legal action shows the government is taking steps to bring a permanent end to whaling in the Southern Ocean.”

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith denied the action would affect relations with Japan, Australia’s top export market.

“We always reserved the right to initiate legal proceedings — that’s what we’ve announced today,” said Smith. “We will treat this matter as an independent legal arbitration of a dispute amongst friends.”