Date: July 06 2012
South Korea's move to resume whaling could add weight to Australia's legal challenge against Japan's contentious hunt, according to an international law expert.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has instructed an immediate diplomatic protest by Australia after the South Korean plan to take minke whales off its coast was unveiled yesterday.
''I am very disappointed by this announcement by South Korea,'' Ms Gillard said.
Australia is arguing at the International Court of Justice in the Hague that Japan is abusing a scientific whaling clause in International Whaling Commission rules.
A decision in this case before the ICJ could affect the legality of any scientific whaling enterprise, according to ANU international law professor Don Rothwell.
''Clearly any decision by the court in the Australia-Japan case will provide a precedent important to that dispute, but significantly, to all states party [to IWC rules],'' Professor Rothwell said.
He said the South Korean decision to go whaling in the name of science could add weight to Australia's claim, which is expected to be argued at the ICJ next year. ''South Korea may also decide to make submissions to the court.''
Frustrated by the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, South Korea told the IWC meeting in Panama City its fishermen were consistently calling for limited whaling to be allowed in local waters.
Delegation leader Joon-Suk Kang told the meeting its government had long promised whalers they would be able to resume whaling upon recovery of coastal whale populations. To this end, they had been conducting sighting surveys since 2001.
''In order to meet Korean fishermen's request and make up for the weak point in a non-lethal sighting survey, the Korean government is currently considering conducting whaling for scientific research in accordance with Article VIII of the [IWC] Convention,'' Dr Kang said.
Under the timetable outlined by Dr Kang, South Korea could issue its own scientific permits within 12 months to begin killing an unspecified number of minke whales.
Shadow environment minister Greg Hunt said it was critical to work with like-minded governments and tell the South Koreans that whaling was a practice from the past. ''We would roundly reject this,'' he said.
South Korea officially suspended its whaling in 1986 in compliance with the IWC's global moratorium on commercial whaling. Since then a limited market has operated in some coastal cities, based largely on the so-called ''by-catch'' of minke whales in fishing nets.
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