Activists on notice as whale season starts in Southern Ocean

ENVIRONMENTAL activists have been put on notice ahead of the upcoming Southern Ocean whaling season.

The governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States have issued a statement condemning any actions at sea that may cause injury, loss of human life or damage to property or the marine environment during the whaling season.

The Department of Foreign Affair and Trade statement released at the weekend said 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," it said.

"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."

The statement reiterated calls 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 respect the right to freedom of expression, including through peaceful protests on the high seas, when protests are conducted lawfully and without violence," it said.

"However, we unreservedly condemn dangerous, reckless or unlawful behaviour by all on either side, whether in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere.

"We will deal with unlawful activity in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws."