Greens and Sea Shepherd dirty over Customs monitoring

WHILE Australians are preparing to enjoy a Christmas bounty, seafaring activists from around the world including two from Byron Bay, will be fighting a Japanese campaign to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.

Sea Shepherd's three ships - Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and Sam Simon - are rushing to intercept the Nisshin Maru dispatched by the Japanese Government's Institute for Cetacean Research which will harpoon then recover whales for "research".

Environment Minister Greg Hunt is copping criticism from the Australian Greens and Sea Shepherd with allegations it broke its election promise to send a Customs vessel to monitor whaling activities.

It has now chosen to send a Customs-staffed A319 aircraft instead, the first monitoring effort by the Australian Government in six years.

Mr Hunt said the aircraft was being used on the advice of Customs experts.

He also took a swipe at the Greens, accusing them of being "more concerned about politics than whales".

Mr Hunt said the former Labor government earned no such attack when it repeatedly failed to launch any monitoring of the whaling fleet.

The Sea Shepherd team say an aircraft does not compare to having a ship in the water.

"It cannot do anything to enforce Australian law, and it can't show the Japanese are operating illegally," a spokesman said.

The Sea Shepherd's anti-whaling crews including 100 volunteers from 24 countries are en route to head off the whalers before they can reach the whales travelling through the Southern Ocean.

Byron Bay's Clancy Walker and Priya Cooper are aboard the Bob Barker and Steve Irwin ships respectively, with Clancy a camera operator and Priya a cook.

The three ships will attempt to block, distract and disrupt the work of the whalers throughout the summer months.

The Australian Government is currently fighting for the whaling campaigns to be deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice, although it is unclear when a decision will be made.

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