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Australia to tail Japanese whalers

Planes and a ship will be used to collect evidence for possible legal action. Protesters head for fleet.

December 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Australia announced today that it will send planes and a ship to conduct surveillance of Japanese whaling vessels off Antarctica, and protesters sailed toward the fleet as pressure mounted against the hunt.

The Australian craft are to collect photographic and video evidence to be used to decide whether Australia will launch legal action to try to stop Japan's whaling, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

Smith also said Australia would lead a group of anti-whaling nations in lodging a formal protest with Japan against its plans to harvest more than 1,000 whales, including 50 humpbacks, in its largest whale hunt conducted in the name of science.

"We are dealing here with the slaughter of whales, not scientific research," Smith told a news conference.

An Airbus A-319 used by the Australian government's scientific division in Antarctica is to conduct surveillance flights over the Japanese fleet.

Australia also plans to send a ship to collect evidence that could be used in international legal action against Japan.

Japanese government officials say the research whaling is permitted under International Whaling Commission rules.

Meanwhile, the Greenpeace protest vessel Esperanza left Auckland, New Zealand, today, determined to find the whaling fleet and "protect the whales, not attack the whalers," Greenpeace's Karli Thomas said.

The U.S.-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has already sailed to the Antarctic.

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