Australia Has Won The International Legal Fight To Stop Japan Whaling

A Minke whale on the flensing deck of the whale factory ship, Nisshin Maru. Photo: Sea Shepherd

Australia has won a four-year international legal fight to stop Japan whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The International Court of Justice determined that the whaling program could not be called “scientific” and that Japan has breached its obligations under the international convention for the regulation of whaling.

The 16-member judicial panel voted 12 to 4 in favour of Australia’s position that Japan was using “scientific whaling” to disguise commercial activity.

It also found that Japan had breached the Southern Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission.

The court ordered Japan to cease whaling in the Antarctic.

Special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales are not “for purposes of scientific research”, the court ruled.

Japan later released a statement saying it would bide by the judgement of the court because it placed “great importance on international legal order and the rule of law”.

While there has been a ban on commercial whaling since 1986, Japan had maintained it was allowed to take whales for “scientific” purposes under the rules of the International Whaling Commission.

Inside the court, listening to the case brought by Australia against Japan, was Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

He tweeted: “The World Court is still reading its decision, but whale hugger types up here in the balcony are quietly weeping for joy.”

The then Labor Government announced legal action on May 30, 2010, in a statement:

“The Australian Government has not taken this decision lightly. We have been patient and committed in our efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to this issue.

“Both Australia and Japan have agreed that, whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship.

“At the same time, the Australian Government will keep working tirelessly to achieve an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean, and we will use all legal and diplomatic avenues to achieve our goal.”

Today the President of the Court, Judge Peter Tomka, took almost two hours to read the judgement.

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