Australia challenges Japan whaling on YouTube

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CANBERRA, Oct 9 (Reuters) Australia has taken its battle against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic to the Internet, with a new YouTube campaign unveiled today that targets Japanese children.

''Can you imagine what life on Earth would be like without these magnificent creatures? Hundreds of years of whaling have nearly wiped them out,'' Australia's Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull says in the video, subtitled in Japanese.

Japan plans for the first time to hunt 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic over the coming summer, with the endangered animals currently migrating south along the Australian coast.

Japan also plans to hunt 935 minke whales for scientific research.

The Japanese whaling fleet, hampered by a fire on the factory processing ship Nisshin Maru last February which killed one crewman, was recently bolstered by the addition of a new chaser vessel.

Australia's government, facing re-election in weeks, has dismissed as futile the opposition's calls for legal action over Japanese whaling in Australia's Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, which is not recognised by other nations.

Japan's fisheries agency, confident its whaling rights will be confirmed, has challenged any country to take it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Turnbull said Canberra would fight in the court ofpublic opinion.

''We urge all countries, especially our friends in Japan, to bring their whaling programmes to an end,'' he said in the video, available at www.youtube.com/DeptEnvironment or ttp://jp.youtube.com/DeptEnvironment.

Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research has not said when its fleet will leave for the Antarctic. Anti-whaling activists have vowed to continue their campaign to disrupt the hunt, which Japan insists is for scientific purposes.

Greenpeace is also launching an animated video in Japan in an effort to shift public opinion against the hunt, which it says violates a 1986 global ban on commercial whaling enforced by the IWC.

Japan argues its whaling programme helps in the understanding of whale stocks and species as well as the health of the fragile Antarctic environment.

It also argues that whaling is a cherished cultural tradition, but studies show the national appetite for eating the delicacy is declining.

REUTERS ARB KP0923

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