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NZ intervenes in whaling case

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Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media

View more articles from Andrew Darby

New Zealand has formally intervened in Australia's legal case against Japan over whaling.

The NZ government told the International Court of Justice it was necessary to put its side of the dispute over scientific whaling, a statement released by the court said on Friday.

Australia began the case in 2010, arguing that Antarctic whaling by Japan was commercial, and not scientific as defined in the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

Japan rejected accusations it was breaching both the convention, and a ban on whaling in the Antarctic, claiming instead it was exercising its right to award scientific permits.

In the court's statement, the NZ government outlines strict rules for scientific permits, and said any whaling that did not meet these rules was prohibited.

NZ's decision to join the proceedings was probably co-ordinated with Australia in preparation for the oral phase of the case, according to Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University.

"What may be interesting to see is whether other state parties to the ICRW take a similar course of action," Professor Rothwell said.

Other countries potentially interested in joining the case could include the Netherlands on the anti-whaling side, and Iceland or South Korea on Japan's side.

The case's written proceedings were abbreviated earlier this year when Australia decided it was not necessary to reply to the Japanese written case, or counter memorial.

Professor Rothwell said oral hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague could now be expected in the northern spring of 2013.

The ANU's Hilary Charlesworth, director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice, has been appointed as an ICJ judge ad hoc in the case which will be heard by a panel of judges.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said it was fantastic news that the NZ government had stepped up to put more pressure on the whalers ahead of the coming Antarctic season.

"The Japanese government's whaling program has much more to do with sushi than science," the society's director Darren Kindleysides said.

The Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru was earlier this week still in dry dock undergoing a refit, according to conservation group Sea Shepherd.

In previous years the whaling fleet has usually departed for the Antarctic by mid-November.

Sea Shepherd vessels are steaming north from Australia this year in an attempt to meet the whalers off Japan.

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