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article imageInternational court bans Japanese Antarctic whaling

By Robert Myles     Apr 1, 2014 in Environment
The Hague - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, ordered Japan to put a stop to whaling in the Southern Ocean.
Japan has long contended that Japanese whalers operating in the Southern Ocean were engaged in “scientific research” under that country’s JARPA II program, a program Japan enacted in 2005. JARPA II purported to provide a structure for whaling research in Antarctic waters as part of an ecological study. The pretext was to monitor competition between different whale species, recording differences in whale stocks and improving future management of Antarctic whales.
But in terms of JARPA II, Japanese whalers were permitted to cull up to 950 minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales annually.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), the global intergovernmental body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling, had, since 2007, disputed the value of the “research”. The IWC passed resolutions that both the use of lethal methods and the sample sizes of whales taken by Japanese whalers were inconsistent with such research and urging Japan to halt the practice.
The IWC resolutions were non-binding but in yesterday’s ICJ judgement, in a case brought by the Australian Government, with New Zealand also entering the process in support, the ICJ held that the Japanese government was acting in support of a commercial venture posing as scientific research.
Unlike the IWC resolutions, the ICJ judgement is binding on the governments concerned, with no appeal.
The ICJ thus, effectively, called a halt on Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean, ordering that Japan “revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence to kill, take or treat whales in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits under Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the [International] Convention [for the Regulation of Whaling], in pursuance of that programme.”
The ICJ judgement was given by Judge Peter Tomka, President of the ICJ, who led a bench of 16 judges sitting in The Hague. Ruling in favour of Australia’s claim that Japan had practiced commercial whale hunting under the guise of a scientific research program, Judge Tomka said, “The evidence before the Court further suggests that little attention was given to the possibility of using non-lethal research methods more extensively to achieve the JARPA II objectives and that funding considerations, rather than strictly scientific criteria, played a role in the programme’s design.”
Although the ICJ did not find that lethal sampling, i.e. the killing of whales, was unreasonable in itself, it did hold that the method of sampling employed by Japanese whalers displayed a lack of transparency, particularly in relation to quotas of different species of whale. These showed little variation over the years. As such, the Court said the target sample sizes could not be justified in relation to achieving what Japan contended were JARPA II’s objectives involving ecosystem research and the construction of a model of multi-species competition.
Summarized, the ICJ findings, final and binding on the parties, were:
(1) finds, unanimously, that it has jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by Australia on 31 May 2010;
(2) finds, by twelve votes to four, that the special permits granted by Japan in connection with JARPA II do not fall within the provisions of Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling;
(3) finds, by twelve votes to four, that Japan, by granting special permits to kill, take and treat fin, humpback and Antarctic minke whales in pursuance of JARPA II, has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (e) of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling;
(4) finds, by twelve votes to four, that Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (d) of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in relation to the killing, taking and treating of fin whales in pursuance of JARPA II;
(5) finds, by twelve votes to four, that Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 7 (b) of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in relation to the killing, taking and treating of fin whales in the “Southern Ocean Sanctuary” in pursuance of JARPA II;
(6) finds, by thirteen votes to three, that Japan has complied with its obligations under paragraph 30 of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling with regard to JARPA II;
(7) decides, by twelve votes to four, that Japan shall revoke any extant authorization, permit or licence granted in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance of that programme.
Koji Tsuruoka, head of the Japanese delegation to the ICJ, said after the judgement that although Japan was "deeply disappointed" with the ICJ’s decision, it would respect it. Tsuruoka told reporters, “As a country that respects the rule of law ... and as a responsible member of the international community, Japan will respect the decision of the Court."
Despite the International Whaling Commission’s ban on commercial whaling dating from 1986, Japan continued to hunt whales on the basis that the culling of these marine mammals was for “scientific research”.
No effort was made to hide the sale of whale meat in Japanese restaurants and shops and Australia, along with other nations opposed to whaling, has long argued that “scientific research” was nothing more than a cloak, and a threadbare one at that, for commercial whaling.
Cumulatively, the scale of the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean was staggering. According to the Australian government, between 1987 and 2009, more than 10,000 whales, the majority minke whales, had been killed b Japanese whalers.
Environmental activists were also prominent in opposing Japanese whaling operations in the Southern Ocean. Often at the forefront of protests against Japanese whalers was the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society based at Friday Harbor in Washington State.
For a number of years campaigners from Sea Shepherd have played an active role in attempting to disrupt Japanese whalers’ annual whale cull in Antarctic waters.
Sea Shepherd’s Captain Alex Cornelissen, Executive Director of Sea Shepherd Global, was in The Hague, yesterday, to hear the ICJ judgement. After the case Captain Cornelissen, welcoming the Court’s decision, commented, “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.”
Cornelissen continued, “Though Japan’s unrelenting harpoons have continued to drive many species of whales toward extinction, Sea Shepherd is hopeful that in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling, it is whaling that will be driven into the pages of the history books.”
More about Whaling ban, japanese whalers, antarctic whaling, Whale hunting, Whales
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