|Did I REALLY promise a ship?!|
Previously, he promised to send a vessel into the Southern Ocean to keep an eye on both the nasty Nippons and the salty Sea Shepherds. Now Grego will send an aircraft instead.
Hunt pontificates how vital it is to monitor the whaling season, given the risk of confrontations between protesters and whalers. He says this plane "sends a clear message that Australia expects all parties to abide by the laws of the seas,'' yet the airborne option seems an afterthought.
He claims the choice of plane over ship was made for 'operational reasons' (read: "Opps! The only ship capable of the job is monitoring illegal migrants up in the Tropics, and we've already spent shitloads on crew sunblock, so we've gotta get our money's worth! Better quickly
|Skytraders A319 at Hobart|
Plan B is an Airbus A319, which has actually been used in this environment before. The Australian Antarctic Division leases it from Skytraders, and the Oz Customs Service undertook several surveillance flights during the 2008 whaling season. As well as photographing illegal fishing vessels, they also took images of the whaling fleet (on 07 Feb.and 04 March 2008).
The aircraft has a range of up to 6,850 km/3,700nm and will possibly operate out of Hobart Intl (though it's been seen recently at Christchurch Intl). Hunt says it'll fly over the whaling area for the entire season (from Jan.-March 2014). The whalers are expected down there by early January.
Last week, Oz, Netherlands, NZ and US issued a joint memo "unreservedly condemning dangerous, reckless or unlawful behaviour by all participants on either side, whether in the Sthrn Ocean or elsewhere."
PS: 23 Dec.2013 - Sea Shepherd calls the plane a waste of time!