January 17, 2006
Diplomatic protest issued against Japanese whaling

Australia, Britain, Brazil, France and Germany were among 17 countries which this week called on Japan to halt to its Antarctic whaling program. "The fact that 17 countries supported this representation, shows how important this issue is, and the depth of feeling around the world," British fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw said in a statement.

A written statement calling on Japan to "cease all its lethal scientific research on whales" was delivered to Japan's foreign ministry on Monday and farm ministry on Tuesday.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986, in line with an international moratorium, but began catching whales again the following year for what it calls scientific research.

Critics say the whale meat goes to up-market Japanese restaurants.

"We urge Japan to reconsider its positions and end this unjustified and unnecessary slaughter which is regarded by many countries as a means to by-pass the IWC (International Whaling Commission) moratorium," Bradshaw said.

Japan's whaling program includes fin and humpback whales, both of which are on the World Conservation Union's list of threatened species. Most of the whales killed are minke.

Other signatories of the statement were Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Australia on Monday had called on Japanese whalers and environmental group Greenpeace to calm down following life-threatening confrontations between then. In the latest incident, on Saturday, a harpoon fired at a minke whale narrowly missed a protest boat.