Joint Statement on Whaling and Safety at Sea

Joint Statement
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 19, 2016

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.

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The Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States jointly condemn any actions at sea that may cause injury, loss of human life or damage to property or the marine environment during Southern Ocean whaling operations in 2016-2017.

The Southern Ocean can be a treacherous, remote, and unforgiving environment. Its isolation and extreme conditions mean that search and rescue capability is extremely limited. Dangerous, reckless, or unlawful behavior jeopardizes not only the safety of whaling and protest vessels and their crews but also anyone who comes to their assistance.

Incidents during previous whaling operations clearly demonstrated the dangers involved. We reiterate our call to the masters of all vessels involved to uphold their responsibility to ensure safety at sea, including ensuring that international collision avoidance regulations are observed in order to avoid the risk of loss of life or injury and damage to property or the marine environment.

We draw the attention of the masters of the vessels involved to the International Maritime Organization’s May 17, 2010 resolution on assuring safety during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas, and the International Whaling Commission’s 2011 Resolution on Safety at Sea.

We also draw the attention of the masters of vessels involved to their duty to render assistance in the event of a collision and to render assistance to persons in distress. Providing assistance in these circumstances is critical in the remote areas of the Southern Ocean.

We respect the right to freedom of expression, including through peaceful protests on the high seas, when protests are conducted lawfully and without violence. However, we unreservedly condemn dangerous, reckless, or unlawful behavior by all participants on all sides, whether in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere. We are prepared to respond to unlawful activity in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws.

Our Governments remain resolutely opposed to commercial whaling, in particular in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission. We do not believe Japan has sufficiently demonstrated the need for lethal research through its NEWREP-A program, nor given due regard to the principles outlined in the 2014 International Court of Justice judgment.

We note with concern that Japan has issued special permits pursuant to NEWREP A to continue whaling in the Southern Ocean this austral summer. This is despite a majority of members present at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission stating that NEWREP-A is not for the purposes of scientific research and requesting that Japan cease the lethal component of the program. The science is clear: all information necessary for management and conservation of whales can be obtained through non-lethal methods.

Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States are committed to improving the conservation status of whales worldwide, maintaining the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling, and implementing meaningful reform of the International Whaling Commission.