New Zealand will take a serious look at joining Australia in taking court action against Japanese whaling in Antarctic waters following the collapse of international whaling talks.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Agadir, Morocco, went into closed door discussions soon after opening on Monday and it emerged overnight that those discussions between representatives from IWC member countries had collapsed.
It means whaling countries Japan, Norway and Iceland were likely to keep hunting whales as they always have, and that Japan could keep heading to the Antarctic to hunt whales for what it has always claimed is "scientific" research.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said this afternoon discussions would now take place with Australian officials, and officials from other countries, about joining International Court of Justice proceedings to stop Japan whaling in the Antarctic.
Australia has already filed a lawsuit with the court in The Hague.
Mr McCully said the collapse of talks was disappointing but not unexpected and court action had now become a realistic prospect.
"It's more likely this week than it was a week ago, put it that way," he told NZPA. "But we'll go through a process of considering that now."
A decision would be within weeks rather than days, though careful consideration was needed before committing, as a court case could take a few years.
He said Japan came to the Agadir meeting to make concessions, "but they didn't take us much past the proposed contentious position of the chair and deputy chair that was released some months ago".
That proposal involved lifting a moratorium on whaling for 10 years but imposing controls on the limited whaling that would then be allowed.
"For us the next big challenge now is to ensure the break-down of the talks don't mean significant increases in whaling in the southern ocean and I'll be engaging urgently with the Japanese government on that matter," Mr McCully said.
Greenpeace New Zealand said it was important like-minded countries continued to work together to find a way to end commercial whaling.
"No government can walk away from the IWC meeting thinking they've done the right thing, as yet again nothing has happened. The status quo is not a step forward," said executive director Bunny McDiarmid.