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article imageJapanese whaling co. fined $1 million by Australian Federal Court

By Megan Hamilton     Nov 19, 2015 in Environment
Japanese whaling company Kyodo has been fined $1 million by Australia's Federal Court for allegedly hunting minke whales inside a whale sanctuary, but there's scant chance it will be paid.
The case was brought against the Japanese company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha by the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Environmental Defender's Office, The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) reports.
The agencies provided evidence that showed four occasions when the whaling company caught the whales off the coast of Antarctica inside waters that have been designated as a whale sanctuary by Australian environmental law.
Map of the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
Map of the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
Australian Government Department of the Environment
In her decision Wednesday, Justice Margaret Jagot found Kyodo had killed several whales within the sanctuary over the span of four separate whaling trips between December 2008 and March 2014, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Each time, the company ignored court orders forbidding it to hunt within the protected waters.
This represented a "deliberate, systematic and sustained" breach of an injunction on whaling that the court imposed in 2008 in conjunction with the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, she said.
This is, in fact, the first-ever contempt finding of the act, The Guardian reports.
In a press release, HSI and the Humane Society of the United States say that increased diplomatic pressure on Japan is necessary so that the country abides by a ruling made the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to stop whale hunting in the Southern Ocean.
However, Japan may defy that ruling by sending out a revised "research" whaling program next month as part of a plan to kill 4,000 minke whales in the Southern Ocean — 333 whales every year from 2015 until 2027, HSI reported.
"Our Australian colleagues have won an historic victory for whales, and the court found decisively that Japan blatantly defied Australian law by killing whales in its sanctuary waters," said Kitty Block, HSI vice president. "It is now imperative that whale-friendly nations across the world come together to increase maximum pressure on Japan to abide by the legally agreed moratorium on commercial whaling and stop trying to work around it. Hundreds more whales are set to die next month for a bogus whaling program that has no scientific justification."
Kyodo did not represent itself in court, ABC noted.
In this years-long skirmish, HSI successfully took the whaling company to court, and it was decided the whale hunt violated Australian law.
The company ignored the injunction. It didn't recognize the injunction or the law, "because they don't recognize the Australian territory in the Southern Ocean," Humane Society chief executive Michael Kennedy said.
In 2014, Australia's government won a case at the ICJ in which it was found that the Japanese whaling program wasn't "scientific," something they continually claimed.
In this latest case, it was argued that Kyodo's continued whaling was a breach of environmental law and showed contempt of the Federal Court, ABC reported.
As a matter of legal principle, this is a battle that must be continued, said Don Rothwell, a professor of law at the Australian National University. He added that the whalers were likely to ignore it.
"Successive Australian governments of both persuasions have declined to give effect to these relevant laws — notwithstanding the order of the courts," he said.
The reason for this is that company knows that if an attempt is made by Australia to arrest a Japanese whaling ship or enact the orders, it will provoke an international dispute with Japan, he said.
It may not be a dispute in regards to whaling; instead the dispute may put into question the legitimacy of Australia's claim over Antarctica, and that is a dispute Australia would try to avoid, Rothwell said.
There's a significant question about the strength of Australia's claim over 42 percent of the Antarctic continent, and that should be acknowledged, he said.
Regardless of whether Kyodo abides by the ruling, Kennedy said he is happy with the outcome.
"Japan always claimed it was doing its work legally. Well our court case in 2004, the ICJ in 2014, and now today proves that nothing they do in our view is at all legal," he said. "This pressure is a thing that has to be kept up. At some point they must crack, maybe this will be the final straw. That's what we're hoping."
Although a global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, Japan has defied the ban and more than 15,000 whales have been killed for scientific research, HSI notes.
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