Nope, the story has not died, yet ...
The Humane Society International has warned Australian charter companies that they are willing to take legal action against them, if they have been found to supply spy planes to the Institute of Cetacean Research, or it's media company Omeka Public Relations.
"Companies that assist Japanese whaling operations in Australia's Antarctic territorial waters are assisting criminal activity that is in contempt of the federal court," said Nicola Beyon, of the H.S.I. "We suggest that any company considering their involvement in whaling activities of any kind be aware of the legal ramifications."
The operative words here are Australia's Antarctic territorial waters. The Australian Whale Sanctuary is included within the exclusive economic zone and Australia's Antarctic waters.
The Institute of Cetacean Research's own catch logs, (their catches are called 'samples' and include pregnant cows and the measurements of their foetuses) are provided by the Japanese government to the International Whaling Commission. Through these records, the H.S.I have been able to prove that the Japanese whaling fleet have caught whales within Australian territorial waters within the last few years. Here is a list of some of their stats: (sorry, put yer glasses on!).
I was wrong when I wrote that it is legal for other countries to hunt whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. It's quite illegal. "Within the Sanctuary, it is an offence to kill, injure or interfere with a cetacean. Severe penalties apply to anyone convicted of such offences." (www.environment.gov.au)
I haven't heard of the Japanese fleet working inside Australia's E.E.Z this year. Well, not killing whales, just ramming boats whilst blaring sirens that induce vomiting and deafness. Perhaps the Australian government has a territorial agreement with the Japanese for this year's whaling season and that is the reason for their 'relaxed and comfortable' stance, not sending out the Oceanic Viking to keep an eye on them. Like I wrote previously, it's not really about the whales.
If the whalers are found to have worked in the E.E.Z, or the Whale Sanctuary this year (as they were in 2008), or found conclusively to be running a commercial whaling program, then the Australian charter companies who hired spy planes to them, and the little regional airport fascilities like the Albany one that refuelled those planes, will have committed a criminal offence by assisting an illegal whaling operation.
Anyway, the Melbourne charter company who hired planes to Japanese whalers over the New Year was Direct Air. There's a Direct Air company in Perth too. I rang them up, hoping to unravel the Albany connection. "I've only just started working here," she told me. "No one else is around at present. I don't know anything."
AWS map: www.environment.gov.au
JARPA stats: www.hsi.org.au