Prime Minister Julia Gillard condemned on Thursday the announced plan of South Korea to resume whale hunting after more than two decades of moratorium on the contentious activity that captures and slaughters the giant sea mammals.
Mindful of the estimated dwindling whale population around the world, global environmentalists and governments, Canberra including, were critical of the policy which Japan also conducts purportedly in aid of scientific research.
Talking to reporters in Melbourne on Thursday, Ms Gillard said that Seoul's whaling announcement, which the South Korean government had declared Wednesday at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Panama, was disappointing.
"There is no excuse for scientific whaling and I have instructed our ambassador in South Korea to raise this matter today at the highest levels of the South Korean government," the prime minister was reported by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) as saying.
She stressed that the Australian government is strongly opposed to Seoul's plan and definitely "we are making our voices heard today."
The news also pricked the nerves of other Australian MPs led by Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who vowed Thursday that he will call on the federal government to ramp its pressure on Seoul for it to possibly scrap the plan, which IWC delegates said could target minke whales that roam the body of water that South Korea shares with Japan.
"We oppose whaling, we've opposed whaling for a long time," Mr Abbott told The Australian.
"We would respectfully say to the South Koreans 'don't do it'," he added.
Also, the Australian Greens said that Seoul's explanation for its whaling activities was far from convincing - that the gentle mammals were being hunted because they deplete fish stocks in the seas.
"I hope the Australian government pushes back on it very hard and I think they'll find as well as having cross-party support they'll have very strong popular support," Greens Senator Scott Ludlam told ABC.
In a declaration of its intents, South Korea, through its representative Park Jeong-seok, informed the IWC Wednesday its plan to allow whaling without providing specifics on where and when the hunt will be pursued.
Mr Park added that his government will file its research plans on the matter by 2013, noting at the same time that Seoul will proceed with the mission convinced that "we are under no obligation to inform you in advance."
The plan will be executed, he assured, "in the spirit of trust, good faith and transparency."
"(But) as a responsible member of the commission, we do not accept any such categorical, absolute proposition that whales should not be killed or caught," Mr Park was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) as saying on Wednesday.
Apart from Japan and South Korea, Norway and Iceland also undertake whaling but with more explicit purpose, with the latter declaring in 2006 that its whale hunting was largely due to commercial reasons, according to AFP.
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