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Australia Goes Online to Fight Japanese Whalers


Australia has taken its battle against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic online with a new YouTube campaign. Australia has been a fierce critic of Japan's plans to hunt 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic in the coming months. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

Australia's anti-whaling film clip accuses Japan of using its scientific whaling program as a cover for commercial hunting.

The film has been posted on the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube and it aims to reach Japanese children.

It features video of humpback whales frolicking in the sea and Australia's Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull interviewing Australian children who oppose Japan's whaling program.

Turnbull narrates the film clip, which is sub-titled in Japanese.

"Can you imagine what life on Earth would be like without these magnificent creatures? Hundreds of years of whaling have nearly wiped them out," said Turnbull. "Action by our government and other nations has secured a global ban on commercial whaling and whale populations are now slowly recovering but there's still whaling going on - often under the pretext of scientific research. And we urge all countries, especially our friends in Japan, to bring their whaling programs to an end."

Japanese whale hunters plan to capture 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic in the coming months.

The endangered mammals are migrating south along the Australian coast, attracting thousands of whale watchers.

Japan also plans to kill 935 minke whales for what it calls scientific research.

Tokyo argues that its whaling program helps in the understanding of whale stocks as well as the health of the fragile Antarctic environment.

The International Whaling Commission, of which Japan is a member, banned commercial whaling more than 20 years ago, in an effort to allow stocks to rebuild. Japan, however, argued against the ban, saying whaling was a long tradition in the country and whale meat a key part of the Japanese diet. The whales that Japanese boats hunt each year are sold for consumption after scientists study them.

Opponents of this annual hunt plan to take legal action to stop Japan from operating in Australia's Antarctic Whale Sanctuary.

The government in Canberra, however, thinks lawsuits will be futile, as the sanctuary is not recognized by other nations.

Japan's fisheries agency has challenged its critics to take their cases to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Australian government hopes public pressure will be more effective in its anti-whaling fight. Environmental groups are adopting similar tactics.

Greenpeace is using an animated film in Japan, which also features school children, to get its anti-whaling message across.

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