OUTRAGE: Local whale watchers have slammed the decision by the Japanese Government to leave the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial hunting in their country's territorial waters.
OUTRAGE: Local whale watchers have slammed the decision by the Japanese Government to leave the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial hunting in their country's territorial waters. Paul Aurisch

Local whale operators outraged at Japan's whaling decision

WHALE operators across the Fraser Coast have condemned Japan's decision to resume hunting whales, in what they call a major blow to conservation.

Japan's government drew international criticism from all over the world when they announced on Tuesday they planned to resume commercial whaling next year and withdraw from the International Whaling Commission.

And the Fraser Coast has joined the chorus.

The news is particularly irksome for Hervey Bay's whale operators, with the region set to host the biennial World Whale Conference and Whale Heritage Sites Summit in October.

Whalesong Cruises owner and operator Rebecca Greenshields said she was heartbroken when she heard the news.

"Oceans are already under threat from pollution and climate change so to take them out of the water is another blow to conservation efforts," Ms Greenshields said.

"Apart from being amazing creatures for us to look at they share their part in conserving the ocean."

Ms Greenshields said she had seen first-hand the effect whale watching could have on people who were looking for a genuine tourism experience.

"They come out for that and get so much more than just looking at the whales," she said.

"When you get that close to them, nature on that scale causes a shift in your brain about how you perceive the world.

"Seeing them on their backs which shows they trust us, it really touches you."

Japan's commercial whaling will be limited to their territorial and economic waters, meaning the once frequented Antarctic waters will be excluded.

According to Blue Dolphin Marine Tours owner Peter Lynch, this means the area will likely become a whale sanctuary.

"Unfortunately for the northern whales, it's not good news for them," he said.

"As a tourism operator, we all want to see whales and it's a disappointing decision to see from an industry perspective."

As the IWC is a conservation group it has limited power in urging Japan to re-join the commission or issue sanctions.

But Ms Greenshields said there needed to be a stronger response from whale tour operators and the general public to the country's decision.

"I'm not sure how it would manifest but there needs to be some kind of call to arms," she said.

"I think even here we could band together as operators to issue a statement."

Fraser Coast mayor George Seymour also criticised Japan's announcement, saying it was "backward step for humanity."