In May of 2010, Australia filed an application with the International Court of Justice in regards to their concerns involving Japan and its large scale whaling activities in the Antarctic. Australia pointed out that these activities were in violation of the obligations Japan agreed upon under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Australia asked the court to order Japan to cease Japan’s implementation of a Japanese Whale Research Program (JARPA) under which the country was pursuing its whaling activities. They also asked the court to revoke any applications, permits or licenses that would allow whaling activities and give guarantees and assurances that they will not take any actions that would further JARPA or any other similar program. On March 31st, the court made a 12-4 ruling in favor of Australia. Environmentalists, who have been fighting for the cause for several years, celebrated the victory.
Japan argued that their annual whaling activities were for scientific research, particularly testing whether commercial hunting could be sustainably performed. While the judges pointed out that international law does not forbid killing whales for scientific studies, the court found no reasoning to support Japans target killings of 850 minke whales per year as necessary for scientific purposes. The Court further noted that this research program had only produced two peer-review scientific papers since its inception 9 years ago.
Despite Japan’s cooperation in the case, there remains one problem: ICJ decisions are not necessarily binding. Furthermore, Japan is also a member of the International Whaling Commission but fails to recognize their mandates, joining the likes of Iceland and Norway. In Japan, whale meat is a popular delicacy and whaling has been a deeply rooted tradition in their culture.
Do you think Japan will cut back on whaling activity following this suit? Do you believe that Japan and other nations truly conduct whaling activities for “scientific purposes” or do you think it is a cover up? If you believe it is for scientific purposes, what type of scientific discoveries do you think they seeking to learn?