Australia is home some major eco news this week.
The first and more serious of the two deals with the Australian armed forces and Japan’s whaling fleet. The new Australian government, elected in part because of its strong environmental stance, is considering sending a Navy observation ship to gather evidence on the fleet’s whaling activities.
The new Labor government may bring a legal challenge against the Japanese in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Ruud said: “We take seriously Australia’s international obligations on the proper protection of whales. We would not rule out the use of Australian assets to collect appropriate data including photographic evidence concerning whaling activities.”
The government has not decided whether or not to send a ship yet, but will be making that decision sometime early next week. Japan has announced its intentions to hunt in an area the Australian government, but not international organizations, has dubbed a whale sanctuary.
Japan reacted as it generally does when attacked on its whaling policies. The government told Australia to bring it (we’re paraphrasing here). Confident that it will come through any legal action unscathed, the Japanese fisheries agency has issued public challenges for any country to take it to court over its whaling activities. The Japanese ambassador to Australia said he was aware of the country’s outrage but Japan would continue whaling.
The issue for the Australian government is the legal status of the water which it considers a whale sanctuary. The government considers a section of Antarctica their territory, including the sanctuary, but is has not been officially recognized by any governing bodies. Naval action in the area could breach certain international laws which have designated Antarctica a demilitarized zone.
Australia isn’t the only one observing the whalers, however. Environmental Graffiti reported earlier on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a radical anti-whaling group which is following the Japanese fleet with the intent of disrupting their whaling activities.
A tuna tosser at Tunarama 2006
The Tunarama festival is a celebration of the town’s main industry, tuna fishing. Many residents have grown rich from catching the fish, which can sell for A$6,000 to Japanese sushi and sashimi buyers. The highlight of the yearly festival is the Tuna Toss.
In the tuna toss, athletes (including a few former Olympians at times) gather to compete for an A$1,000 cash prize by attempting to toss a whole frozen tuna the farthest. Recently, however, festival organizers decided that tossing the real thing was too wasteful. Global tuna stocks have been declining steadily, and festival organizers decided it was time to go green by replacing frozen fish with polyurethane tuna models.
The models, which can weigh up to 22 pounds, have been given the seal of approval by a former tuna tossing champion. Merriwyne Hore, acting manager of Tunarama 2008, praised the fish models. Hore said: “The dimensions are perfect. We road tested it with one of our champions. He had a few throws, and he was really impressed. It felt good, very balanced.”