The International Whaling Commission will hold its 61st Annual Meeting next week in Portugal, and as usual, the politics are already heating up over this contentious issue. Anti-whaling Australia has already begun announcing that it has no intention of going along with the Japanese plan to trade its controversial scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean for IWC sanction of whaling closer to its own coast. Australia's Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, laid out his government's views on whaling in a lengthy editorial today. Garrett explains that Australia is committed to a constructive meeting, but states in no uncertain terms that he wants "to advocate for critical steps in reforming the Commission" and that "[t]he world has changed dramatically...and we believe it is time for the IWC to catch up." He further states that the Rudd government has no intention of humiliating pro-whaling nations, but that Australia will take legal action against Japan if a mutually acceptable compromise cannot be reached.
Garrett no doubt intends to make good on his intentions - after all, Australia is a strongly anti-whaling nation, and a whopping 91% of respondents indicated that they supported legal action to stop whaling in a 2008 poll - even though Japan is Australia's largest trading partner. The Environment Ministry has been dealing with the public's dissatisfaction on whaling for a while now and probably doesn't want to risk appearing soft on this issue. But how will Japan take Garrett's assertions about legal action? Is it likely that they could read his editorial and really think that he is coming to the meeting determined to work cooperatively? We'll find out next week.