WHALES ON THE NET
ICJ Rules Japan's Southern Ocean Whaling 'Not For Scientific Research'
In a stunning victory for the whales, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague announced their binding decision today (31 March, 2014) in the landmark case of Australia v. Japan, ruling that Japan's JARPA II whaling program in the Antarctic is not for scientific purposes and ordered a temporary halt to the whaling program and not to issue whaling permits at least until the program has been thoroughly revamped.
Reading a 12-4 decision by the court's 16-judge panel, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka said Japan's program fails to justify the large number of minke whales it says it needs to catch under its current Antarctic program - 850 annually - and it doesn't catch that many anyway. It also didn't come close to catching the 50 fin and 50 humpback whales it aimed to take.
Prior to the verdict, there had been some speculation that the ICJ would not permit the hunting of endangered fin and humpback whales, but it would compromise and allow the hunting of minke whales. However, it has been Sea Shepherd's contention all along that - no matter the species - no whales should be killed, especially in a sanctuary.
Even the Ambassador from Japan to the U.S., Kenichiro Sasae, during a public meeting in Los Angeles in December 2013 attended by representatives of Sea Shepherd USA, had this to say about whales and whaling:
"As an individual, I like whales and if you go out and see the whales, there is no reason for us to kill this lovely animal. But it's history and it's politics, I would say. There are a small number of Japanese people still trying to get this won. But mainstream Japanese are not eating whale anymore." At the same meeting, Ambassador Sasae stated that Japan will abide by the ICJ ruling.
"With today's ruling, the ICJ has taken a fair and just stance on the right side of history by protecting the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the vital marine ecosystem of Antarctica, a decision that impacts the international community and future generations," said Captain Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global.
Although the decision is a major victory for Australia and environmental groups that oppose whaling on ethical grounds, it will not mean the end of whaling.
Japan has a second, smaller scientific program in the northern Pacific - which now may also be subject to challenge. Meanwhile Norway and Iceland reject outright a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission.
The ICJ ruling did say explicitly that killing whales for scientific purposes would be legal under international law in the context of a better-designed study. Japan's program was supposed to determine whether commercial whaling of some species can resume without bringing them in danger of extinction.
The ruling noted among other factors that Japan had not considered a smaller program or non-lethal methods to study whale populations, and said Japan had cited only two peer-reviewed scientific papers relating to its program from 2005 to the present - a period during which it has harpooned 3,600 minke whales, a handful of fin whales, and no humpback whales at all.
Sea Shepherd Global will have the ships prepared to return to the Southern Ocean in December 2014 should Japan choose to ignore this ruling. If the Japanese whaling fleet returns, Sea Shepherd crew will be there to uphold this ruling against the pirate whalers of Japan.