Japan’s whaling program not for scientific purposes, rules the International Court of Justice
The finding by a 16-judge panel at the ICJ is in favour of Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling program is carried out for commercial purposes.
Japan has used the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which permits killing for research, to justify killing whales in the Antarctic. But the court’s judges agreed with Australia that the Japanese research – two peer-reviewed papers since 2005, based on results obtained from just nine killed whales – was not proportionate to the number of animals killed. “In light of the fact the Jarpa II [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” said presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia. “Japan shall revoke any existent authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program.”
Japan signed a 1986 moratorium on whaling, but has continued to hunt up to 850 minke whales in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean each year. The ICJ’s ruling is final and there will be no appeal.
While Japan has committed to abide by the court’s ruling it is free to continue whaling if it withdraws from the 1986 moratorium or the 1946 treaty.
Japan had argued it has complied with the moratorium despite its 2,000-year tradition of whale hunting, leaving coastal communities in “anguish” because they can no longer practise their ancestral traditions.
Source ABC News, Australia. 31 March 2014.
Museum scientist, Kevin Cole returned last week from a international conference to propose a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary (SAWS) in Praia do Forte, Brazil. This issue was raised informally at the workshop and the ruling will no doubt please the cetacean biologists who were at the meeting. More on the SAWS later.