Australia and New Zealand announced today that they will be launching a joint whale research program in 2010. The announcement came with explicit statements from the Australian government that the non-lethal research was intended to demonstrate that Japan's lethal scientific whaling was completely unnecessary for cetacean research. Even more encouraging, the results are going to be used to help develop whale management plans, something our organization has been urging the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to put in place for a while now.
It's hard to imagine that the Japanese will welcome this news. Pro-whaling nations often seem very sensitive to perceived slights from anti-whaling nations, and this is an overt challenge to Japan's "scientific" whaling program. Whether you actually believe that Japan is being sincere when it calls its program scientific or not, the Australia/New Zealand program is clearly out to discredit their methods. It'll be interesting to see how Japan and its allies at the IWC respond. It's never dull at the IWC.