World court to hold hearings on whaling case


The International Court of Justice plans public hearings with Japanese and Australian officials from June 26 through July 16 in a case over Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

In the case filed by Australia in May 2010, the main issue is whether the whaling is for scientific purposes, as allowed by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

The court is expected to pass down a ruling four to eight months after the hearings.

Australia is claiming Japan is effectively carrying out commercial whaling and violating the treaty. Japan insists it collects scientific data necessary for resuming commercial whaling.

Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka and senior officials from the Fisheries Agency will go to The Hague. It is Japan’s first time ever as a party to a case handled by the ICJ.

  • AnimuX

    Australia has rightfully filed a case against Japan before the world court because Japan is clearly in breach of its obligations as a signatory to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

    Japan has a long history of regulatory violations like many other whaling nations. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest Japan is somehow an innocent party conducting its annual ‘research’ whaling programs in good faith with the International Whaling Commission.

    The violations include ignoring species protections, killing undersized whales, hunting in off-limits areas, hunting out of season, exceeding quotas, and more. Some of this is explained by Isao Kondo, a former whaling executive, who wrote “The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Coastal Whaling” and described methods used to skirt restrictions within Japan’s whaling industry.

    However, in a more sinister and blatantly illegal endeavor, Japan financed poaching operations (called pirate whaling) all over the world in the 1970s and 80s. Foreign whalers, at times with direct guidance from Japanese representatives, hunted whales with no regard for IWC established restrictions. The meat from these illicit hunts was smuggled to Japan disguised as other products. Investigator Nick Carter spent a great deal of time researching and exposing this illegal trade and was praised later by the UNEP for his efforts (this led the IWC to pass resolutions against whaling related trade with non-members).

    Even the current abuse of Article VIII of the ICRW (sometimes called the ‘research loophole’) is not unique. 10 years before the moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect – and 6 years before the final vote to establish it – in 1976 the IWC set Bryde’s whale quotas to zero in order to protect the species from over-exploitation. Japan responded by issuing itself a ‘special permit’ and killing over 200 animals from the protected stock in the following season (this led the IWC to call for a review of requirements for future special permits).

    These actions do not exhibit good faith adherence to decisions of the IWC or the intent of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

    Nor is any good faith exhibited by Japan’s use of development assistance money and bribery for the purpose of vote manipulation in the IWC – ranging from cutting off aid to countries like Seychelles as punishment, to building fisheries infrastructure in certain developing nations as a reward, to a more recent scandal uncovered by the UK Sunday Times revealing the exchange of cash filled envelopes and employment of prostitutes (this led the IWC to introduce new rules regarding payment of fees).

    Article 65 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea declares that:

    “States shall cooperate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and in the case of cetaceans shall in particular work through the appropriate international organizations for their conservation, management and study.”

    The appropriate international organization is, of course, the International Whaling Commission.

    That’s the same IWC which set all commercial whaling quotas to zero since the 1985/86 season – the same IWC which declared the Southern Ocean to be a whale sanctuary in 1994 – the same IWC which repeatedly passed resolutions calling on Japan to stop killing whales.

    From the text of IWC Resolution 2007-1:

    “CONVINCED that the aims of JARPA II do not address critically important research needs;


    FURTHER CALLS UPON the Government of Japan to suspend indefinitely the lethal aspects of JARPA II conducted within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”

    Jun Morikawa, in his book, “Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics, and Diplomacy”, explains that whaling continues due to corrupt bureaucrats who ensure there will be ongoing tax-funded subsidies for whaling to secure high paid jobs for themselves in the commercial whaling industry. This practice is commonly referred to by the term ‘amakudari’.

    Today, Japan’s government spends about ¥782 million (US$9.78 million) annually to prop up the whaling industry. Whaling is actively promoted by the government through groups like the LDP created Parliamentary League for the Promotion of Whaling – mischaracterizing the industry as a pillar of cultural identity while obscuring regions of Japan where whales were historically worshipped as gods of good fortune and never eaten. While most citizens of Japan remain indifferent to whaling, a collective motivation to preserve ‘tradition’ is manipulated to support the whaling industry.

    In fact, in 2012 the government of Japan was unable to sell off 75% of the whale meat from the ‘research’ programs. In recent polling published by IFAW, 89% of respondents in Japan said they haven’t bought whale meat in the last 12 months.

    As for any ‘research’ used as an excuse to justify whaling, in 2002, in an open letter published in the New York Times, twenty-one scientists (including three Nobel laureates) stated emphatically, “We, the undersigned scientists, believe Japan’s whale research program fails to meet minimum standards for credible science.” The letter specifically states there is no compelling reason to kill whales in order to obtain data from them.

    Japan’s response to this letter dismissed the opinions of these scientists by claiming they did not understand the provisions of the ICRW, sought to politicize the issue, and ignored the stated goals of the whaling ‘research’.

    However, in a 2003 response to similar accusations, published in BioScience, IWC scientific committee members supported the 2002 rebuke of Japan’s whaling programs. The scientists stated, “Japan’s scientific whaling program is so poor that it would not survive review by any major independent funding agency,” and when it comes to misrepresenting commercial activities as science, “there has rarely been a more egregious example of this misrepresentation than Japan’s scientific whaling program.” They also explained that the vast majority of publications resulting from these programs have absolutely no value for the management of whale stocks.

    There is no scientific justification to use ‘research’ programs as an excuse for indefinite continuation of commercial whaling in blatant defiance of the IWC.

    There is also no economic, nutritional, or cultural justification for undermining whaling restrictions established through international conventions.

    Japan is not cooperating with the decisions of the IWC in good faith and has not honored its international obligations, as a signatory of the ICRW, for decades.

    Japan’s whale hunting is conducted during an international moratorium on whaling, within an international whale sanctuary, while the international organization responsible for regulating whaling repeatedly calls for Japan to stop killing whales.

    Let the International Court of Justice proceed and finally bring Japan into adherence with the ICRW and the democratic decisions of the International Whaling Commission to leave the whales alone.

  • As an Australian I hope Australia loses!