The Australian Government has announced plans to launch legal action against Japan for its so-called 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, and Minister for Environment Protection Peter Garrett made the announcement last week, stating that the decision to commence action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague was not taken lightly.
"We have been patient and committed in our efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to this issue," they said in a joint statement.
"We have engaged in intensive discussions in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and bilaterally with Japan. We have enjoyed the support of many other IWC members who share Australia's concerns and goals."
McClelland, Smith and Garrett said that despite diplomatic efforts, recent statements by whaling countries in the IWC provided little hope that serious conservation of whales would be reflected in any future IWC agreements.
"The Government has always been firm in our resolve that if we could not find a diplomatic resolution to our differences over this issue, we would pursue legal action," they said.
The Government said it will continue with diplomatic efforts until a meeting with the IWC in June, but is pessimistic about the chances of achieving an outcome which meets Australia's conservation objectives.
McClelland, Smith and Garrett added that the decision to pursue the matter in the ICJ reflects a disagreement about only one element of a diplomatic bond with Japan that is "deep, broad and multi-dimensional".
"Both Australia and Japan have agreed that, whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship," they said.
"At the same time, the Australian Government will keep working tirelessly to achieve an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean, and we will use all legal and diplomatic avenues to achieve our goal."
A formal application is due to be lodged in The Hague this week.