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Whaling Fleet Near NZ's Search & Rescue Zone

Minister concerned whaling fleet is near NZ’s Southern Ocean search and rescue zone

Minister for Conservation, Steve Chadwick said that a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion sighted the Japanese whaling fleet travelling towards the Ross Sea.

Steve Chadwick said that images of the fleet were taken by the patrol aircraft and that consistent with New Zealand’s strong opposition to whaling, and due to public interest in this issue, these images will be released to media as soon as they can be processed.

“The Orion was undertaking routine surveillance against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the Southern Ocean in support of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources’ inspection system.

“The Government is concerned that the Japanese whaling fleet is now sailing in the direction of New Zealand’s search and rescue area of responsibility.

“The extremely cold and hazardous conditions of the Antarctic make it one of the most dangerous and difficult regions in the world for search and rescue operations. In addition, the distance which needs to be covered to reach the area from New Zealand means that our search and rescue capacity to assist, in the event of incidents, is very limited.

“Last season, the Japanese whaling fleet undertook whaling in New Zealand’s rescue zone with tragic consequences. There were a number of serious incidents, including the death of a crew member from the Japanese whaling vessel, Nisshin Maru, as a result of a fire on the vessel.

“New Zealand is strongly opposed to Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean. At the same time, the safety of human life at sea is a responsibility New Zealand takes very seriously.

“We are also deeply concerned about the risk to human life and to Antarctica’s pristine marine environment, should the Japanese whaling fleet encounter problems at sea,” Steve Chadwick said.

New Zealand is responsible for search and rescue in a region extending from the South Pole to the southern border of the Honolulu Region, including Norfolk Island, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands, under international conventions on maritime search and rescue.

The New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre is the agency responsible for search and rescue in the area to which the fleet appears to be heading.

The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 986. But International Whaling commission members can award themselves whale kill quotas for scientific purposes under Article VIII of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling.

During the patrol the RNZAF also flew over a number of fishing vessels in the Convention Area. The data will be provided to the CCAMLR Secretariat in Hobart.

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