Australia and New Zealand expressed disappointment Wednesday with Japan's decision to withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling, while welcoming its intention to stop whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.
In a joint statement, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Environment Minister Melissa Price said their government is "extremely disappointed" at the development.
Restating Australia's resolute opposition to whaling in all forms, they vowed to continue working within IWC to uphold the body's global moratorium on commercial whaling regardless of Japan's plan to resume it within its own exclusive economic zone in July.
At the same time, they welcomed Japan's plan to stop so-called "scientific whaling" in the Antarctic as of next summer, saying that means whale protection zones established in the southern waters "will finally be true sanctuaries for all whales."
Separately, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters urged Japan, as "a valued supporter of the international rules-based system, to reverse course.
"Whaling is an outdated and unnecessary practice. We continue to hope Japan eventually reconsiders its position and will cease all whaling in order to advance the protection of the ocean's ecosystems," Peters said in a statement.
Regarding Japan's plan to stop whaling in the Antarctic, he said, "We seriously welcome the announcement."
Australia and New Zealand regard whale hunts there in the name of scientific research as cover for commercial whaling, which Japan halted in 1988 in line with an IWC moratorium adopted in 1982.
Darren Kindleysides, CEO of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said that given Japan's IWC withdrawal announcement, it should immediately summon home its whaling fleet currently targeting 333 minke whales in the Antarctic, since it is operating under a permit received from the IWC.
"Japan can't have their cake and eat it too. Japan said they're turning their back on the IWC. So they must withdraw (from the Antarctic Ocean) immediately," he said.
The conservationist said that while Japan's announcement constitutes a "win for our whales" in the southern waters, "it would be a bittersweet victory if it comes with unchecked commercial whaling by Japan in their own waters."