Japan's Talk Of Whaling Again In The Southern Ocean Is More Chest Thumping Than Reality: Australian Legal Expert

Getty/ Cameron Spencer

Japan is unlikely to be able to come up with a scientific whaling program which would be legally acceptable under the terms of a ruling by the International Court of Justice, according to an Australian legal expert.

New Zealand’s prime minister John Key says Shinzo Abe, Japan’s Prime Minister, told him in a meeting yesterday that Tokyo is keen to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Abe is now in Australia, where he signed a free trade agreement and addressed the Australian Parliament today.

Australia successfully took Japan to the International Court of Justice to stop so-called scientific whaling in Antarctica.

Japan said it would abide by the ruling but prime minister Abe has since said: “I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources.”

Associate Professor Tim Stephens of the University of Sydney’s faculty of law says Australia could take Japan back to court if it resumed whaling in the Southern Ocean but believes it’s very hard to build a case for legitimate scientific whaling.

“I think it’s really hard for Japan to come up with an effective whaling program,” Stephens said during a panel discussion at the Australian National Maritime Museum called Whale of a Debate.

“The science now is so good about what you can discover about whales. You can work out everything you need which is scientifically important without having to kill them.”

The court said there are some things you can’t find out about whales without killing them, such as stomach contents, but we already know what’s in their stomachs and there’s nothing to be gained by killing them.

“I think it’s more chest thumping by Japan than a realistic plan to go south again,” Stephens says.

Stephens worked on the Sydney and Canberra Panels of International Legal Experts assessing legality of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean in 2006 and 2009.

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