Sydney: Australia's foreign ministry on Tuesday reaffirmed its opposition to all forms of commercial whaling a day after Japan's withdrawal from the international commission and convention banning the practice came into effect.
A statement by the ministry urged Japan to return to both the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and its decision-making body, the International Whaling Commission, while it welcomed the Asian country's decision to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean, reported Efe news.
"While the Australian government welcomes the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean, we are disappointed that Japan has withdrawn from the Convention and is resuming commercial whaling," the statement said. "We continue to urge Japan to return to the Convention and the Commission as a matter of priority."
"The Australian government's position on whaling has not changed," it added. "We remain opposed to all forms of commercial and so-called ‘scientific' whaling."
Japan's Fisheries Agency had said on Monday that the hunting of the cetaceans would only take place within Japanese territorial waters, adding that no whales would be caught in waters of the Antarctic Ocean or the southern hemisphere.
The Japanese branch of Greenpeace said it was pleased about the moratorium on Antarctic whaling, which it said was in line with a ruling by the International Court of Justice that found the whaling Japan had conducted there was not, as it had first claimed, for scientific purposes.
Greenpeace did, however, express its concern over Japan's withdrawal from the IWC - although Tokyo has said it will remain on the international body as an observer.
"Increasingly whales are valued for their crucial role in our oceans, and whale watching is booming for tourism globally," said Hisayo Takada, Program Director of Greenpeace Japan. "At the same time, markets for whale meat are continuing to decline."
"Now is a critical time for ocean protection," Takada added. "A time when threats to our global oceans are increasing, with direct impacts on species like whales. Right now we need more international cooperation, not less."