Japan Loses Against Australia, UN In Fight To Continue Annual Whaling
March 31, 2014

Japan Loses Against Australia, UN In Fight To Continue Annual Whaling

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Japan’s highly-contentious whaling campaign experienced a major setback on Monday when a United Nations court ruled that the island nation could no longer continue its annual whale hunt in the waters around Antarctica.

The International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Australia, which had sued Japan and rejected that country’s argument that the whaling has been conducted mainly for scientific reasons.

“The court concludes, that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not purposes of scientific research,” the presiding judge, Peter Tomka, of Slovakia, said referring to the Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic (JARPA).

Located in the Netherlands, the UN court’s 16 judges reached a 12-4 decision that stated Japan’s research program did not justify the large number of minke whales it takes from the waters surrounding Antarctica – estimated to be around 850 per year.

Japan’s representative at the court said Tokyo would abide by the court’s decision.

"As a state that respects the rule of law ... and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the court," chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka told reporters outside the courtroom.

Former Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, who supervised the suit's filing, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he felt ecstatic about the court’s decision.

"I'm absolutely over the moon, for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all," he said. "I think (this) means without any shadow of a doubt that we won't see the taking of whales in the Southern Ocean in the name of science."

However, the ruling could simply delay Japan’s whaling efforts until the country develops a new program to conduct their operations under. The UN judges noted that there are no current international laws that ban the hunting of whales as part of a scientific study. Meat from some of the whales culled in the name of science ends up being sold for consumption in Japan – where it is considered a delicacy.

Mitsumasa Kamiota, an official with Japan's Fisheries Agency, said Japan has not declared that it will quit research whaling completely. He added that Monday's decision only affects the country's Antarctic program and Japanese whaling in the north Pacific will continue as usual. Kamiota also suggested that Japan may eventually devise a new research program in the Antarctic.

"There is no change to our commitment to continue scientific research whaling under the international rules," he said, according to the Associated Press. "We will carefully examine what is allowed and what is not allowed under the ruling."

Japan had argued that the suit was an attempt by one nation to force its cultural norms on another, comparing it to Hindus demanding an international ban on killing cows.

Japan isn’t the only nation that hunts whales in the open ocean. Norway hunts about 500 minke whales in the northeast Atlantic annually, while Iceland hunts about 50. Those programs, in addition to Japan’s program in the north Pacific, are considered to be open to challenge as a result of Monday’s ruling.