The International Court of Justice – ICJ – has ruled Japan must immediately stop its whaling program in the Antarctic. The ICJ’s 16-judge panel ruled 12 votes to four in favour of Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling program was not in fact designed and carried out for scientific purposes.
The court ruled that Japan must revoke current whaling permits and refrain from issuing any more. 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,” presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said “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. A spokesman for the Japanese government said the court’s decision was “deeply disappointing”.
“We are deeply disappointed and regret that the court ruled that Japan’s research whaling program in the Antarctic did not fall within the special permit clause of the treaty,” spokesman Nori Shikata said. “However Japan will abide by the judgement of the court that places a great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law.”
“We will abide by the decision of the courts and although we will consider a concrete future course of action very carefully, upon studying what is stated in the judgement, we will cease the current research whaling program in the Antarctic pursuant to the judgement.” Nori Shikata said. “This is a final verdict and we are saying in a very straight forward way that we will abide by the judgement of the court.”
While it has committed to abide by the court’s ruling, Japan would be free to continue whaling if it withdrew from the 1986 moratorium or the 1946 treaty. Japan had argued it had 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.
ICJ Ruling ‘Vindication’ of Australia’s Legal Action
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, whose government first launched the legal action in May 2010, said he is “delighted by the result”.
“It’s great for these extraordinary creatures of the deep – whether they be minke whales or humpback whales or fin whales – it’s all part of an important global conservation effort,” Mr Rudd said.
His former environment minister Peter Garrett said he was overjoyed by the finding.
“This is a comprehensive and resounding decision in Australia’s favour,” Mr Garrett said. “It means we won’t see harpoons in the Southern Ocean – we certainly shouldn’t see them down there any longer. I’m absolutely over the moon for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all. “To have this ruling from the international court, which is absolutely clear and totally comprehensive, vindicates the decision that we took in taking Japan to the court.”
Another former environment minister, Ian Campbell, said he hoped Japan would respect the court’s decision.
“I think this is a time for the Japanese to reflect and to understand the importance of this decision – to respect the decision and then to make the right decision themselves,” Mr Campbell said.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, who helped argue Australia’s case, said other countries may now follow Australia’s lead.
“This was a pioneering piece of litigation – the first time that there had been litigation in the International Court of Justice about an environmental treaty,” Mr Dreyfus said. “It’s going to pave the way for more environmental litigation I could expect between nations.”
Bob Brown Hails ‘Whale of a Win’
Greens founder and Sea Shepherd director Bob Brown declared on Twitter that the ICJ’s ruling was a “whale of a win”. He said he does not expect Japan will apply for new permits to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.
“Japan, like all other great nations, has it’s reputation to think of. And I don’t think it’s going to put a huge money loser like this in front of its global reputation. The court ruling is a blessing in disguise for Japan,” Mr Brown said.
Sea Shepherd global executive officer and former captain of the Steve Irwin protest ship, Alex Cornelissen, said Australia’s advocacy was an important factor in the outcome.
“It’s very hard to predict how the international court is going to vote on a case like this so it was a big surprise for everybody really,” Mr Brown said. “We finally got the ultimate result and that is that no more whales will be killed in the southern ocean whale sanctuary and that’s fantastic.”
Don Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National University, he says the decision may not bring Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean to an end.
“The court of course was not asked to strike out Article Eight of the whaling convention – that’s the contentious provision which permits so-called scientific whaling,” Professor Rothwell said. “It needs to be remembered that Article Eight of the whaling convention remains in place and Japan has the opportunity to interpret that consistently with international law.”
Professor Rothwell said he would be interested to see how Japan reacts to the decision over the coming days.
“Japan has threatened that it would withdraw from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and therefore withdraw from the International Whaling Commission on multiple occasions over the last decade or so,” Professor Rothwell. “And indeed, in the very final submissions that Japan made to the court in July last year, Japan alluded to the fact that as a result of its concerns about “cultural imperialism” – which was the way in which it sought to characterise aspects of Australia’s arguments – that Japan may need to reconsider whether it would remain a party to the whaling convention.”
Japan, Iceland and Norway the Only Remaining Whaling Nations
Whaling was once widespread around the world, but Japan is now one of only three countries, alongside Iceland and Norway, that continue the practice. The meat is popular with some Japanese consumers, who consider it a delicacy.
Norway, the other main whaling nation, in 1993 shifted away from scientific whaling to “commercial” catches, where the meat is sold directly to consumers. Norway set a quota of 1,286 minke whales in the north Atlantic in last year’s summer hunt, saying stocks were plentiful in the region.
Fishermen rarely catch the full quota, partly because demand has sunk in recent years. Iceland and Norway do not claim to be carrying out research, meaning the ICJ’s ruling has no immediate consequences for them.
However, activists said the ruling reflected a gradual changing of opinion that would put an end to whaling. More than 10,000 whales have been killed since 1988 as a result of Japan’s programs.
ICJ Ruling on Japan’s Whaling, What’s Next?
The ICJ decision comes after years of animosity between Australia and Japan over the legality and morality of whaling. Until last year the debate played itself out in the structured but ultimately toothless confines of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the highly emotive court of public opinion.
Because today’s ruling comes from the ICJ and not the voluntary IWC, it is the first legally binding decision for the two countries and New Zealand, which made submissions.
Japan has said it respects international law and has promised to abide by The Hague’s decision.
In the event that it decides to defy the court’s ruling, there is a theoretical possibility that the United Nations Security Council could step in as enforcer, but international law experts say this is almost inconceivable.
With fierce national pride and centuries of tradition, it is unclear whether the ICJ decision will mean an end to Japanese whaling.
What is clear is that a precedent has been set: Japan’s scientific whaling program has been judged illegal in the eyes of the law.
International law expert Steven Freeland says Japan now finds itself in a difficult position because the ICJ has taken away its justification for whaling.
He says the ruling will do little to persuade a Japanese public that is largely in favour of a centuries-old whaling tradition.
“Japan of course in abiding with [the decision] would have to stop its program because it’s in breach of the convention,” Mr Freeland said. “What options would Japan have then? It really depends on how Japan would view the overall context of whaling because … there is always the option to withdraw from the regime altogether by giving six months notice. At an extreme end if Japan felt very strongly about continuing some form of whaling and yet it had to abide by this position, it could take that extreme step.”
Mr Freeland says he does not expect this decision to provide much resolution for the vexed issue of whaling.
“I think after this decision … countries have to get together with cool heads and still need to talk and that’s always been the issue,” Mr Freeland said. “Discussions over the past years have been on an all-or-nothing basis where Australia says ‘no whaling whatsoever’ and Japan says they reserve the right because it’s part of their culture and [they’re] allowed to do it anyway under the scientific whaling.”
Mr Freeland says legal avenues remain for Japan which may permit whaling.
Japanese whaling restrictions: a brief history
- December 2, 1946: The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is born as 15 countries sign the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). Australia was one of the signatories but Japan was not.
- April 24, 1951: Japan becomes a signatory to the convention and becomes part of the IWC. Japan briefly withdrew from the commission from 1985-87 (See below).
- July 23, 1982: The IWC votes to implement a “pause” on commercial whaling, with catch limits set at zero, starting in 1985. This has become known as the moratorium on commercial whaling, and has been in place ever since.
- 1985-1987: Japan defies the moratorium and catches around 5,500 whales “under objection” during 1985, 1986 and the first half of 1987. During this period Japan was effectively not a member of the IWC.
- 1987-: Japan rejoins the IWC and starts hunting whales for scientific research, in accordance with the 1946 convention. Article VIII of the ICRW allows a signatory country to issue itself permits for scientific whaling “subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the contracting government thinks fit”. Japan has taken more than 10,000 whales under this regime, with much of the catch ending up on Japanese dinner plates.
- July 2004: Reports suggest Japan is considering leaving the IWC to join a pro-whaling organisation, NAMMCO.
- 2006: The IWC passes a resolution – by one vote – calling for an eventual return to commercial whaling. Japan has since expressed its frustration that little has been done on this front.
- 2007: The IWC asks Japan to refrain from issuing a permit to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Japan ignores the request and continues its annual southern whale hunt.
- 2007/2008: The Australian government sends a ship, the Oceanic Viking, to the Southern Ocean to observe the Japanese whale hunt and gather evidence for a possible legal challenge. The government releases photos of harpooned whales and publicly questions the integrity of Japan’s scientific research.
- May 31, 2010: Australia formally launches litigation in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, claiming that Japan “has breached and is continuing to breach” its international obligations.
- June/July 2013: The ICJ hears submissions from Australia and Japan. New Zealand takes the opportunity to throw its support behind Australia by presenting its own submissions to the hearing.
- March 31, 2014: The ICJ rules that Japan’s whaling program in seas near Antarctica is not for scientific purposes, agreeing with Australia that Tokyo should revoke permits to catch and kill whales for research purposes.
Global Whaling, How Does Japan Stack-up?
Japan has announced it will not continue whaling in the Antarctic, after the International Court of Justice ruled its “scientific” program was illegal.
Australia brought the action challenging Japan on the grounds the program was not scientific.
Defending the program after the ICJ ruling, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation to the court said many other countries continue to hunt and kill whales.
“It’s not only Japan that is engaged in whaling. It’s almost nearly 10 countries in the world, including the United States, Canada, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Russia among others,” Nori Shikata said.
The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was introduced in 1946 after centuries of commercial whaling around the world sparked fears of widespread extinction.
Initially, the convention – enforced through the the International Whaling Commission, of which there are 88 member nations – set limits on the number of whales permitted to be killed each year. In 1985 the commission introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling applicable from the beginning of the 1985-86 season.
Since then just a handful of countries have continued to hunt and kill whales for commercial purposes. They do so under objection to the moratorium.
In the 1980s the then USSR, Japan and Norway refused to honour the moratorium and continued with commercial whaling. Today commercial whaling is conducted by Norway, which has consistently objected to the moratorium since its introduction, and Iceland, which initially conducted a scientific program following the introduction of the moratorium but has since returned to commercial whaling. Both countries conduct whaling only in their own exclusive economic zone, not in international waters or the territory of other nations.
Between 1985 and 2012 more than 22,000 whales were killed by objecting countries as part of their commercial programs. Of those, over 10,000 were taken by Norway and more than 5,000 were taken by Japan, before it ceased commercial whaling in 1988.
Under the convention countries are allowed to conduct whaling that meets a scientific purpose. The clause that allows this is very broad, and enables a country to issue its own permits for scientific whaling.
“Any contracting government may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorising that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research subject to such restrictions as to number and subject to such other conditions as the contracting government thinks fit, and the killing, taking, and treating of whales in accordance with the provisions of this article shall be exempt from the operation of this convention,” it says.
Japan began its scientific whaling program in 1993 and has conducted four separate operations since.
Iceland conducted a scientific whaling program between 2003 and 2007, killing 200 minke whales. Iceland then recommenced commercial whaling under objection to the moratorium. In 2012, Iceland killed 52 whales as part of its commercial program.
Norway and South Korea have also conducted scientific whaling programs at different times since the moratorium began in 1985.
Between 1985 and 2012 more than 15,500 whales were killed through scientific programs, more than 14,600 of those by Japan – the largest whale take of any nation since the moratorium began.
Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling and Other Whaling
A small number of countries with indigenous populations claim the hunting and killing of whales is integral to their culture. Whaling that the IWC considers “aboriginal subsistence whaling” is not subject to the moratorium.
The IWC allows Denmark (including Greenland), Russia, the United States and the Caribbean nation St Vincent and the Grenadines to conduct aboriginal subsistence whaling. The IWC says “it is the responsibility of national governments to provide the commission with evidence of the cultural and subsistence needs of their people”.
Greenland, for example, is permitted to hunt bowhead, minke, humpback and fin whales claiming a cultural connection. “The whale products are distributed within the hunter families, and some of it is also legally sold on the local open markets. Furthermore a smaller part of the hunt is processed, according to EU veterinary standards, in two localities in Greenland, in order to cover the needs of those local communities, not having access to their own whaling vessel or those communities having a meat deficit. No whale products are exported out of the Kingdom,” the Greenland ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture says.
Between 1985 and 2012 over 9,300 whales have been killed under this exemption to the moratorium.
There are also countries that are not members of the IWC that conduct whaling in line with cultural practices.
Canadian Inuit communities hunt bow and beluga whales for food. “These populations have suffered from past commercial hunting for their skin and oil. Presently, they are taken only for food by the Inuit,” the Canadian government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans says of beluga. Beluga whales are not covered by the IWC, as they are classed as small cetaceans. In 2011, Canadian Inuits killed three bow whales.
Indonesia is also home to communities that continue to hunt and kill whales for local consumption. According to Indonesia’s tourism website, between 15 and 20 sperm whales are killed during their annual migration.
And in South Korea – a member of the IWC with a ban on whaling – 21 whales were killed illegally in 2011.
Japan’s Whaling Program
Japan conducts what it says are scientific whaling programs in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is the Antarctic program that was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in March. Japan is still able to carry out its scientific program in the North Pacific ocean, but is not allowed to hunt and kill whales using the JARPA II scientific program in southern waters anymore.
JARPA II commenced in 2005. Over the life of the program, Japan has killed thousands of whales – including around 3,600 minke whales, the most commonly caught across whaling programs.
The ICJ’s ruling stopping Japan from continuing with its Antarctic whaling program found the killing of whales through the program was not necessarily scientific.
“In the Court’s view, Japan’s continued reliance on the first two JARPA II objectives to justify the target sample sizes, despite the discrepancy between the actual take and those targets, coupled with its statement that JARPA II can obtain meaningful scientific results based on a far more limited actual take, cast further doubt on the characterisation of JARPA II as a program for purposes of scientific research,” the ICJ ruling says.
Under JARPA II, Japan also has the highest quota for killing whales of any whaling program in the world. The annual quota for minke is 850. For fin and humpback it is 50 each, but Japan does not kill the full quota every year.
The permit for JARPA II also allows Japan to process and sell any whale meat incidental to the killing of whales for scientific purpose.
Currently only Norway and Iceland conduct commercial whaling activities, but under IWC regulations four other countries have aboriginal subsistence whaling exemptions. Indonesia and Canada, who are not members of the IWC, also allow some whaling for cultural reasons and South Korea has recent infractions for illegal whaling.
All in all there are at least 10 countries that undertake some kind of whaling activity. But Japan is the only one with a program that goes beyond its own territorial and economic boundaries.
RELATED! Summary IJC Judgment on Whaling the Antarctic
RELATED! South Korea Plans to Re-start Scientific Whaling
26 years after a global moratorium on commercial whaling was put in place, South Korea’s decision to resume hunting whales for scientific research has dismayed environmental campaigners and stunned other members of the International Whaling Commission.
South Korea’s plans to start a so-called scientific whaling program have been widely condemned by politicians and environmental groups. South Korean delegates confirmed the plan to kill whales in coastal waters at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Panama this morning, saying they wanted to start hunting minke whales under a loophole that allows the killing of whales for scientific research.
They said fishermen had been calling for the whales to be killed because “an increasing number of minke whales are eating away large amount of fish stocks which should be consumed by human being.” At the sometimes heated talks, South Korea said it would announce later how many whales it would kill and when, but insisted that it did not need foreign approval.
Whale meat remains highly popular along the east coast of South Korea, which maintained a large whaling fleet based in the southeastern port of Ulsan until the moratorium on commercial whaling was put in place in 1986. Last year, South Korean fishermen accounted for 21 out of the 23 cases of illegal whaling reported to the IWC :: Read the full article »»»»
RELATED! Fight to End Japans Ritualistic Dolphin Slaughter
Much attention has been paid to Japan’s seasonal hunt for whales in the Antarctic oceans, while the anti whaling movement has garnered global media coverage, another hunt for marine mammals is in full swing – almost unnoticed – along Japan’s own shores.
Taiji has long been well known as a whaling town and spearheaded the development of more sophisticated traditional whaling techniques in the 17th century. In 1988, a ruling by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) caused Taiji to suspend commercial whaling. However, the town continues to hunt small whales and dolphins. Taiji’s annual dolphin hunt is a subject of controversy and the town faces continued pressure from protest groups.
Each year Japanese fishermen harvest around 20,000 dolphins and small whales as part of what they say is a centuries-old tradition. The biggest hunt is in Taiji 太地町, a small town –population 3,225 – on the Pacific west coast of Japan. Sea Shepherd says that it has a permanent team protesting the annual slaughter of dolphins, porpoises, and small whales.
Starting on September 1st and usually continuing through March of the next year, Sea Shepherd holds a vigilant watch and interrupt over these horrifying proceedings. This annual slaughter of dolphins was virtually unknown until 2003 when Sea Shepherd globally released covertly-obtained film and photographs of the now infamous “Bloody Cove” in a village called Taiji. Starting in 2010 and continuing to this day, Sea Shepherd has a ongoing presence of volunteers standing watch on site at the Cove. They are The Cove Guardians. Read the full article »»»»
source: abc fact-check