Coastal, Marine & Fisheries Management: Whaling

After years of fighting for transparency, EDO NSW and our clients – Sea Shepherd and HSI – announced in May 2017 that the Information Commissioner had agreed that Australians have the right to see publicly-funded whaling footage, finally released in July.

In 2008, the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking filmed Japan’s whaling fleet chasing, harpooning and killing whales inside the Australian Whale Sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica. 

In March 2012, on behalf of our client Humane Society International (HSI), we sought access to this important footage. Our client intended to use this footage to prove that Japanese whaling company Kyodo was continuing to whale in the Australian Whale Sanctuary despite the Federal Court declaring that the whaling was illegal under Australian law and issuing an injunction restraining further illegal whaling in 2008.

Access to the footage was denied by the Federal Government on the basis that its release would affect Australia’s diplomatic relations with Japan. We received the same response to a further application made in 2013. In 2015, on behalf of Sea Shepherd, we made a further application to access the footage, and again the Government claimed that its release would affect relations with Japan. 

On 23 May 2016, we appealed to the Information Commissioner, requesting a review of the refusal. On 23 May 2017, the Information Commissioner made a decision that release of the footage would not affect international relations, and ordered that it be released. Following further negotiations with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection regarding the audio contained in the footage, the tapes have now been released.

“Sea Shepherd would like to thank the great team at EDO NSW, and also acknowledge the good people at Humane Society International for kicking this process off back in 2012. It should not be up to not for profit groups to fight for many years in bringing transparency to the public, something that is rightfully theirs.” Sea Shepherd Australia Managing Director, Jeff Hansen.

Gaining access to material that proves serious breaches of environmental law is vital and central to the work of EDO NSW. This process shows that defending the environment can take years – and a whole lot of tenacity and legal expertise.

This was illustrated by successful and long-running Federal Court proceedings brought by EDO NSW on behalf of HSI. In 2009 the Court found that Kyodo was in breach of Australian environmental laws by whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary, and granted an injunction to restrain Kyodo from further breaches. Despite this, Kyodo continued to whale in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in breach of the law and the Court’s injunction, and so in 2015 the Court found that Kyodo was in contempt of Court and ordered the company to pay a $1 million fine.

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