Australia attempts to end Japanese Whaling

6th Aug 2013

Australia attempt to end Japan whale hunt

The International Court of Justice is currently deliberating evidence in landmark case that may have a major impact on whaling. Australia has taken action against Japan for what it argues is a breach of international obligations.

Japan is allowed to catch a certain number of whales each year for scientific research under a clause in the International Whaling Commission’s ban on commercial whaling from 1986. However, a number of different countries and campaign organisations consider that Japan exploits this loophole to conduct commercial whaling for meat.

- Minke Whale (Mike Tetley) - 935 are targeted every year by Japanese whaling fleets

Within Japan itself, there is division of opinion on the matter. Some are keen to protect Japan’s whaling heritage while others are vehemently opposed to the heavy Government subsidies that support the commercial hunt. Indeed consumption of whale meat has dropped significantly in recent years.

The Japanese whaling fleet attempts to kill 935 minke and 50 fin whales every year in the Southern Ocean. This ocean was declared a whale sanctuary by Australia in 1999. While Japan has argued that the International Court of Justice has no authority to decide what is or isn’t science. Australia argued that Japan’s research programme isn’t science but "a heap of body parts taken from a large number of dead whales".

Australia has asked the Court to order Japan to end its research programme and provide guarantees that it will not take further action under the current JARPA II or any similar programme until the work is brought into line with international law. New Zealand has also been involved in the hearings to support Australia’s case.

The International Court of Justice, sometimes known as the World Court, first began operations in 1946. It was set up to resolve disputes between nations and is the main judicial body of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague.

The hearings began on 26 June and concluded on 16 July, an outcome is expected before the next whaling season begins. Australia and Japan have confirmed they will abide by the Court’s decision.

How you can get involved:

1. Get the latest news from the case Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) and find out more about the work of the International Court of Justice
2. Help ORCA identify and protect critical whale and dolphin habitats by volunteering on a marine mammal survey
3. Find out about the Japanese campaign group Dolphin and Whale Action Network
4. Find out more information on the International Whaling Commission’s scientific permits and JARPA II