Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has called on Japan to abandon its proposed Southern Ocean scientific whaling program, known as JARPA II, due to be underway within days.

Senator Campbell said around this time each year, Japanese ships sailed south for whaling in the Southern Ocean adjacent to Antarctica.

JARPA II replaces the 18-year JARPA research program with an even more damaging programme. Under JARPA II, Japan will double its minke whale catch to 935 this year. Japan will also take 10 fin whales this year and next year in what it calls 'feasibility’ research.

From 2007–08, Japan will continue to take 935 minke whales, increase the fin take to 50 and then include 50 humpback whales annually — all in the name of science.

'This is more than science — these are commercial quantities of whales,' Senator Campbell said.

'Just four months ago, the majority of members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee expressed serious concerns with all aspects of the JARPA II proposal and refused to review it until JARPA had been properly reviewed.

'IWC members then adopted a resolution calling on Japan to withdraw its proposal for an increase in scientific whaling.

'But Japan continues to exploit a loophole in the IWC which allows whales to be killed for 'science'.

'Japan needs to think again. This is not good science and the numbers cannot be justified. Proceeding with this action, despite a resolution supported by a majority of IWC members, undermines its scientific credibility.'

Senator Campbell said fin and humpback whales were on the World Conservation Union’s List of Threatened Species.

'Past hunting by a range of whaling nations — including Australia -- pushed these species to the brink of extinction,' Senator Campbell said.

'Only now are populations starting to rebuild. There is no agreed data to indicate that endangered fin whale populations have increased since the cessation of whaling, and the most recent survey of Antarctic minke whales has revealed substantially lower numbers than earlier estimates.'

Senator Campbell said Australia remained opposed to all forms of commercial whaling and would continue to fight for the protection of all whale species. He said Australia would continue its strong diplomatic efforts to achieve a global ban on all commercial whaling.