International Court of Justice Orders Immediate Halt to Japan’s Antarctic Whaling Program


The International Court of Justice handed the victory to Australia in a landmark case against Japan’s controversial whaling program in Antarctica, in a much-awaited ruling that conservationists are celebrating as a major step in protecting the giant mammals.

The decision by the top UN court in The Hague rejected Japan’s claims that its whaling program was solely for the sake of science. Australia in 2010 contested such claims and accused Tokyo of exploiting a loophole in a 1986 moratorium allowing it to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean under the guise of “scientific research.”

Payam Akhavan, Japan’s lawyer, insisted Japan complied with an international whaling moratorium that introduced zero catch limits for commercial whaling. But Canberra claimed Japan has slaughtered more than 10,000 whales under its so-called “JARPA II” research program.

Japan has long defended its scientific practice as a 2,000-year tradition, but admitted that the meat from slaughtered animals often ends up on plates back home.

In a 12-4 vote, the top court ruled that Japan’s whaling program violated the international whaling convention, further stating that there was an “insufficient scientific program” behind the whale cull. The court ordered Japan to halt its whaling program in the Antarctic “with immediate effect.”

The Australian government welcomed the historic win, but stressed it would have no effect on diplomatic and trade ties with Japan.

Koji Tsuruoka, Japanese representative at The Hague, told international media that Japan will abide by the decision.

“Japan regrets and is deeply disappointed that JARPA II … has been ruled by the court as not falling within the provisions of Article 8,” he told reporters.

“As a state that respects the rule of law, the order of international law and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the court.”

However, Monday’s ruling only covers the Antarctic and not the North Pacific. Japanese officials said ruling would not affect its “research whaling” in that region.

“Our program in the Nothern Pacific is outside the scope of the proceedings before the courts and so they are two separate programs and this ruling is about the program in the Antarctic,” said Nori Shikata, a spokesman for the Japanese Delegation at The Hague.

“What we have been saying today is that as far as the judgement of the court is concerned we will abide by it.”

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “Save the whales protest.” by Jeannie Fletcher/Flickr