Australia will send a plane to watch over Japan's annual whale hunt rather than base a ship in the Southern Ocean.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt confirmed yesterday an A319 - a plane with a range of 9200km - would be used for the season about to get under way.
Before the election, the coalition had pledged to use a ship to keep watch over the whaling fleet, which this year is aiming to harvest up to 935 minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpbacks.
But the Southern Ocean patrol ship ACV Ocean Protector is near Christmas Island, pressed into service as part of the Government's Operation Sovereign Borders.
Mr Hunt said the choice of a plane rather than a ship was made for operational reasons.
The plane will be used through the whaling season between January and March.
He said it would be a more effective means of monitoring a wide area of the Southern Ocean.
“It sends a clear message that the Australian government expects all parties to abide by the laws of the seas,” he said.
Three anti-whaling ships last week left Hobart, steaming to monitor Japan’s whaling fleet.
The move was ridiculed by Greens’ spokesman Peter Whish-Wilson who said the coalition had pledged to put a ship in the Southern Ocean.
“After six years of rhetoric, Greg Hunt today had the chance to make a difference and stop the slaughter of our whales. He failed us,” he tweeted.
Mr Hunt signalled Australia wanted both sides of the whaling argument to control themselves.
“While we respect the right to peaceful protest, Australia will not condone any dangerous, reckless or unlawful behaviour,” he said.
The move comes as Australia and Japan await a decision from the International Court of Justice on the legality of whaling.
The Rudd Government, which used a ship to collect evidence in 2008, started a court case against Japan in a bid to end the practice.
Australia is arguing Japan is claiming to be conduct “scientific whaling” when it is really a commercial hunt.
A decision is expected in the new year but experts believe the court will wait until the end of the coming season’s hunt before revealing its position.