WATCH: Video of Japan's fleet harpooning whales in the Antarctic sanctuary

Harpooned whale. Image: Australian Customs (via Sea Shepherd)

Footage of a whale being harpooned in the Antarctic by Japan’s whaling fleet in 2008 has finally been released after the Information Commissioner found it wouldn’t harm relations with Japan as claimed by the Australian government.

The film was taken inside the Australian whale sanctuary off the Antarctic coast by the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking in 2008 as part of Australia’s whaling case against Japan in the International Court of Justice.

Here’s the footage with commentary by Jeff Hansen, managing director Sea Shepherd Australia:

The footage was obtained after a joint effort started in 2012 using the Freedom of Information process by the international environmental activist group Sea Shepherd, the Environmental Defenders Office NSW and the Humane Society International Australia.

Each time the footage was requested, the government replied that this was exempt from Freedom of Information rules because release would harm relations with Japan.

Nicola Beynon, who is the head of campaigns for the Australian Office of Humane Society International, said: “Killing whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary is a breach of Australian law. The Australian public has a right to see that offence and to know how appalling it is.”

Hansen said the Australian government had suppressed the footage for years.

“The main reason given was that the images of this horrific slaughter would harm diplomatic relationships with Japan,” he said.

“The Australian government has chosen to side with the poachers instead of defending the whales of the Southern Ocean.”

The footage above shows a whale being harpooned with an explosive head harpoon. The animal then dives but is winched to the surface.

“Sea Shepherd has been relentless in our opposition of the Japanese whaling fleet, filling a void in doing the job that the majority of Australian’s want to see done,” Hansen said.

“Now is the time for the Australian government to live up to its pre-election promises and send a vessel to oppose whaling by Japan.”

Filming the Japanese whalers. Image: Australian Customs (via Sea Shepherd)

Japan’s whaling fleet left earlier this month for the Antarctic for another whale catching season. It aims to catch 333 minke whales.

Sea Shepherd decided not to send ships this year to follow the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.

The 12-year mission of harassment against whaling in Antarctic waters, launched each year from Australian ports, has been stopped because Japan is using “military surveillance to watch Sea Shepherd ship movements in real time by satellite”.

Sea Shepherd uses the human shield method of activism, placing ships and crew between the whales and the Japanese harpoon ships. Over the campaign this has led to collisions and damaged ships.

Footage without the commentary:

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