Justice for Whales: Celebrated too soon?

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?

Source: [ICJ]

Image: [Wikipedia]


  1. As an animal lover, it is hard not to be biased against this whaling activity going on in Japan. Even though ICJ decisions are not binding, they still set a standard to let the world community know about our responsibilities to the nature and what should be the criteria in whaling activities. Considering that Japan has a long tradition of whaling, I doubt that they will ever cut back on whaling activities despite the ICJ decision. However, there is no question that Japan should definitely follow the standard set out in the International Whaling Commission since it is a member. Japan’s argument with respect to “science” is a little absurd because there is no need to kill 850 minke whales per year solely for purposes of scientific research. I believe Japan definitely has some other purposes besides science in its whaling activities. As stated above, since whale meat is a popular delicacy, I believe this is the main reason why whaling activities are so common and excessive in Japan.

  2. The results of the so -called “research program” performed by Japan makes it very difficult to believe that the actions committed were conducted purely for “scientific purposes.” If there was a real interest in determining whether commercial hunting can be performed, Japan would have more evidence to show the world then just two peer review reports. I feel that although Japan is a party to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, they have not stood by their duty to cease there actions of whaling. Furthermore, they have not followed any of the mandates provided by the International Whaling Committee, showing that their cooperation with the order of the ICJ is highly unlikely. Although they may be part of committees whose purpose is to prevent the extinction of whales in spirit, their actions say otherwise, in which I do not believe they will cut back on the activity of whaling, especially since the decision of the ICJ is not binding.

  3. I adamantly agreed with Australia’s claims. In my opinion, Japan is using the guise of scientific research to breach its international obligations. Japan’s arguments were ridiculous. Japan is using the guise of science for commercial whaling purposes. Japan has a rapidly developing whale meat industry. In Japan, there are restaurants that serve whale meat as a delicacy. As a result, Japan is using its excuse of scientific research to boost its economy. It is not necessary for Japan to hunt and kill thousands of whales for scientific research with today’s technology. Japan’s whaling activities were blatantly illegal. I am glad that the International Court of Justice saw through Japan’s ridiculous claims and ordered Japan to stop its whaling activities. Whether Japan will actually stop is another question. I hope Japan does actually stop these whaling activities in accordance with the ICJ’s ruling but I fear Japan may be too tempted by economic benefits to stop.

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