Joint statement on whaling and safety at sea

Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States call for responsible behaviour at sea during the 2013/14 Southern Ocean whaling season

Media release

20 December 2013

The Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States jointly condemn any actions at sea that may cause injury, loss of human life or damage to property or the marine environment during the 2013/14 Southern Ocean whaling season.

The Southern Ocean can be a treacherous, remote and unforgiving environment. Its isolation and extreme conditions mean that search and rescue capability is extremely limited. Dangerous behaviour jeopardises not only the safety of whaling and protest vessels and their crews but also anyone who comes to their assistance.

Incidents during the last whaling season clearly demonstrated the dangers involved. We reiterate our call to the masters of all vessels involved to uphold their responsibility to ensure safety at sea, including ensuring that international collision avoidance regulations are strictly observed in order to avoid the risk of loss of life or injury and damage to property or the marine environment. 

We draw the attention of the masters of all vessels involved to the International Maritime Organization's 17 May 2010 resolution on assuring safety during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas, and the International Whaling Commission's 2011 Resolution on Safety at Sea.

We respect the right to freedom of expression, including through peaceful protests on the high seas, when protests are conducted lawfully and without violence. However, we unreservedly condemn dangerous, reckless or unlawful behaviour by all participants on either side, whether in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere. We will deal with unlawful activity in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws.

Our Governments remain resolutely opposed to commercial whaling, including so-called 'scientific' whaling, in particular in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission. Lethal research techniques are not required for modern whale conservation and management. We will continue to engage on this matter.

Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States are committed to improving the conservation status of whales worldwide, maintaining the International Whaling Commission's global moratorium on commercial whaling, and implementing meaningful reform of the International Whaling Commission.