Australia welcomes ICJ hearings in case to halt Japanese whaling


Canberra on Friday welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision Thursday to schedule three weeks of public hearings in The Hague from June 26 on Australia’s case against Japan’s so-called research whaling.

“We will now have our day in court to establish, once and for all, that Japan’s whaling hunt is not for scientific purposes and is against international law,” Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, who will represent Australia at the hearings, said in a statement.

“Australia wants this slaughter to end,” he added.

The fixing of the date sets up the final stage in the case brought by Australia against Japan on May 31, 2010. Since then, the ICJ has received written submissions from both parties.

The upcoming oral hearings are the last phase of legal proceedings before the court makes its decision on the legality of Japan’s whaling, which Dreyfus said will hopefully be delivered before the start of Japan’s next whaling season.

Australia is arguing that Japan’s continued pursuit of a large-scale whaling program is in breach of its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment.

“Australia’s views on whaling are well known — we condemn all commercial whaling, including Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling,” Environment Minister Tony Burke said in the same statement.

“The Australian government’s decision to bring this legal action demonstrates our determination to end commercial whaling,” he said.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Australia’s whaling case does not undermine the relationship between Australia and Japan.

“Australia and Japan have agreed that our differences over whaling will not affect the strong bilateral relationship we share,” Carr said. “The International Court of Justice is the appropriate forum to resolve these differences in a calm and measured way.”

On April 7, Japan’s three-ship whaling fleet, led by the mother ship Nisshin Maru, returned to Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, after completing this season’s hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.

Damage was visible on the bow and other sections of the hull of the Nisshin Maru, which was involved in collisions with vessels of the antiwhaling group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The Fisheries Agency said the fleet caught a combined 103 southern minke whales this season, the smallest catch since the country started its “research whaling” in the Antarctic Ocean in 1987.

Critics say Japan’s research whaling is merely a cover for commercial whaling.

  • Hanten

    This’ll be interesting. Unlike The International Whaling Commission, The International Court of Justice is less open to corruption. As far as I know, there aren’t any sitting judges from developing nations desperate for aid and so there’ll hopefully be no vote buying this time.

  • AnimuX

    If the history behind this conflict is taken into account Australia has a good case and success is likely.

    First, Japan has a long history of regulatory violations (like many other whaling nations). It is intellectually dishonest to pretend as if 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 of 30 years experience, who wrote “The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Coastal Whaling” in which some of the methods used to dodge regulations are described.

    However, in a much more sinister and blatantly illegal practice Japan financed poaching operations called ‘pirate whaling’ all over the world. Foreign whalers, at times with direct guidance from Japanese representatives, killed 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.

    Even the abuse of Article VIII of the ICRW (sometimes called the ‘research loophole’) is nothing new. 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.

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

    Nor is good faith exhibited by Japan’s use of development aid 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 Caribbean countries 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 participation fees).

    The IWC set all commercial whaling quotas to zero in 1986. Since then, in a repeated unilateral act of defiance, Japan continues to issue itself ‘special permits’ to hunt whales for ‘research’.

    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.

    In a 2003 response, 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.

    As a signatory to the ICRW Japan is expected to honor its international obligations.

    From the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties:

    Article 26
    “Pacta sunt servanda”

    Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.

    The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea sums it up nicely:

    Article 300
    Good faith and abuse of rights

    States Parties shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed under this Convention and shall exercise the rights, jurisdiction and freedoms recognized in this Convention in a manner which would not constitute an abuse of right.

    Article 65
    Marine mammals

    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.

    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.”

  • Kitty Hawk

    If Australia becomes a veggie nation, Aussie’s anti-whaling comments could be justified. Why doesn’t Aussie recognize meat slaughtered such as pork, kangaroo and beef? Whale’s intelligence is not that high as anti-whaling activists mention. Feeling of Cuteness is dependent on each person. Whenever anti-whalers are reported, their
    sentiments only are underlined. Be adult. Whales are only one of spices in food chain.

    • Kitty you need to be harpooned yourself – perhaps then you’ll change your mind

      • Kitty Hawk

        Dan, you’d better mind what you mention here.
        Because it causes that you disclose your mental age.
        If you don’t understand my words, you should work as a fisherman or a cattle farmer for a while to enlarge your horizons.