Monday March 31, 2014
The International Court of Justice has ruled that Japan’s whaling programme is not for scientific purposes, in a landmark decision tonight.
After years of protest and diplomatic wrangling, the court in The Hague ruled by 12 votes to 4 that Japan does not have the right to hunt whales in the Antarctic. The decision is binding so Japan can not appeal.
“The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not for purposes of scientific research,” President Peter Tomka told the International Court of Justice tonight.
The court ruled Tokyo should cease its whaling programme “with immediate effect”.
New Zealand helped Australia to haul Japan before the courts accusing Japan of exploiting a loophole in the rules by saying they are hunting whales for scientific purposes.
Japan says it’s necessary to kill a small number of whales to find out more about them. In the last 20 years, 10,000 whales have been slaughtered in the name of science.
The case started in 2010 but during a three-week hearing last year, New Zealand and Australia argued Tokyo’s programme was just a commercial operation in disguise.
However, Japan argued the court didn’t have the right to decide what is and isn’t science.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said it was a complex case.
“The big issue for us is whether we do see a pathway out of whaling in the Southern Ocean from Japan’s perspective and that’s what we’ll be looking for in the small print of the court’s decision.”
In 1986 commercial whaling was banned but several countries like Norway and Iceland continue to practise it and remain members of the commission. Japan reverted to the 1940s regulations that allow hunting for scientific purposes but there are no rules on how many whales can be killed.
The Sea Shepherd protest ship has been working to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean. The ship has collided with whaling boats, dragged ropes in the water to damage propellers and used smoke bombs.
Sea Shepherd campaigner Pete Bethune says it’s “judgment day for Japan… the stakes couldn’t be higher”.