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Australia gov't to monitor Japanese whale hunt in Antarctica


Australia's government reconfirmed Thursday it intends to send a ship to monitor Japan's whale hunt in seas around Antarctica, which is expected to begin in several weeks.

"We will have clear monitoring in the Southern Ocean," Environment Minister Greg Hunt was quoted by the Australian Associated Press and other local media as saying.

Hunt said he would provide details later this month as the government is still working through some "operational issues."

In the lead-up to the September election won by the ruling conservatives, Hunt had promised to have an Australian customs vessel in place to monitor the Japanese whaling activity.

His reconfirmation of that comes just days after Japanese whaling ships headed for Antarctica with the aim of slaughtering up to 935 minke whales and up to 50 fin whales through March.

Anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd, which claims to have saved the lives of about 930 whales last season, plans to send vessels to intercept the Japanese whaling fleet.

It wants the Australian government to send a customs vessel to put pressure on Japan.

The International Court of Justice is expected to rule soon on Australia's case against Japanese whaling, which began in The Hague in July after decades of diplomatic efforts failed to curb Japan's whaling program.

Australia argues that Japan's so-called "research whaling" program is a cover for commercial whaling in breach of its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.