Flannery's views on whales 'curious'

December 31, 2007 - 2:44PM

The crew of a protest ship searching for Japanese whaling ships in the Antarctic have described as "curious" claims by prominent scientist Tim Flannery that a sustainable whale cull is possible.

Professor Flannery - a principal research scientist at the Australian Museum in Sydney - said the current Japanese annual target of 935 minke whales was possibly entirely sustainable.

He said there were more important environmental concerns in the Antarctic including fishing pressure on low-end food sources such as krill.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza has now arrived in the iceberg zone and is searching for the whaling fleet.

Esperanza media officer Dave Walsh said crew members had discussed Professor Flannery's comments on Monday and were generally puzzled by them.

"Given the Japanese government's stated objectives in their science program...is to restart commercial whaling and one of the target species is an endangered species and they have doubled their quota in the last few years... shows they have no interest in sustainability," Mr Walsh told AAP.

"It's just a matter of killing as many as they can.

"There's nothing there to show any plan forward for a sustainable hunt.

"(Professor Flannery) was talking in particular about a sustainable minke population in terms of the sustainable hunt.

"But at the moment there are no agreed figures for the population.

"You can't claim to do a sustainable hunt of a population that is unknown."

He said the whales were already under pressure from hazards including impact with ships and pollution.

"It was so unexpected in seemed to be a curious statement to make," Mr Walsh said.

"He did mention that there aren't any humpbacks being killed.

"The fact of the matter is 50 of the whales being targeted are in fact endangered - fin whales, the second largest living animal.

"It seemed to us to be a strange statement to make."

Mr Walsh said Esperanza was in sight of icebergs inside Antarctic waters.

"We're starting our search now, starting a search pattern through the whaling areas," he said.

"They don't want us to know where they are and until we find them, we don't want them to know where we are either."

The Japanese Whaling Association (JWA) on Friday responded to criticism from the Australian government that there was no credible scientific justification for the hunting of whales.

"In the proper context of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) and the International Whaling Commission, these comments of the government of Australia are provocative and absurd," JWA president Keiichi Nakajima said.

"The fact is that the ICRW is about properly managing the whaling industry by regulating catch quotas at levels so that whale stocks will not be diminished.

"The convention is not about protecting all whales irrespective of their abundance."

© 2008 AAP
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