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Asia Dive News : Japanese Whale Kill Could Reach 900

A FLEET of six ships left Japan last week bound for Australian waters with the Federal Government powerless to stop their intended slaughter of more than 900 whales.

Legal experts say an international legal challenge could turn the Japanese whalers around as soon as next month.

Yet the Government is loathe to take the matter to the courts - fearing the cost and a backlash if the case was unsuccessful.

It is instead continuing to pursue ineffective diplomatic pressure, which Japan ignores.

Sydney University Challis professor of International Law, Don Rothwell, said the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) had the power to issue an immediate injunction to stop the Japanese whaling research program.

"If Australia was to act in this fashion the Japanese whaling program would be stopped before Christmas," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

Although the practice was banned two decades ago and condemned worldwide, whaling remains an entrenched institution in Shimonoseki, the southern port city that retired whale boat captain Kinji Takenaka, 79, calls home.

This year Japan is pressing ahead with a plan to double its minke catch as well as add 10 endangered fin whales to its quarry.

"It's been 29 years since you could catch fin whale, and I'm happy to see this happen because fin whale is 10 times more delicious than minke, which is not so tasty," Captain Takenaka said.