Whaling In the Antarctic – Truly Only for “Scientific Research?”


In Australia v. Japan, Australia hopes to put a permanent end to Japan’s annual slaughter of hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean, an area that Australia has designated as a “whale sanctuary.”  This challenge was brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on June 1, 2010 and is currently under deliberation.  Australia argues that for decades, Japan has been using a “scientific research” justification to circumvent a 1946 international convention that regulates the number of whales allowed to be hunted for commercial purposes. Australia also argues that Japan is violating a moratorium set by the International Whaling Commission in 1986 for commercial whaling activities.  The international moratorium prohibits whaling except when it is done for scientific reasons. According to the International Whaling Commission, Japan has hunted up to 1,000 whales in the Antarctic annually.  This exceeds the annual quota allowed for whales hunted for scientific research.  In light of this, Australia further argues that the thousands of whales that Japan hunts each year is not being used for scientific research.  Australia’s stance is that these whales are being hunted to supply a rapidly developing whale meat industry in Japan.  Australia adds that thousands of whales cannot and do not need to be killed annually for scientific purposes with today’s technology.  Australia, in sum, argues that Japan’s whaling activities are blatantly illegal and do not further any scientific purpose.

Japan argues that all their whaling activities are legal and is within the boundaries of Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Japan’s stance is that its whaling activities are necessary to better understand and collect scientific data, such as, reproductive rates, feeding habits, and migration routes, about the whales.  In addition, Japan states that the rules allow it to sell whale meat as well.  However, it is important to note that Japan is the only country in the world that uses “scientific research” as a reason for its whaling activities.

A decision on Japan’s controversial whaling activities is not expected until later in the year.  However, how do you think this dispute should or will turn out?  Are Japan’s reasons valid for its whaling activities in light of the diminishing number of the whale population?  Is Japan really just using scientific research as a cover for its main goal of supplying the whale meat market?

Picture: News.com

Source: ICJ

Source: CNN


  1. What a sham. I don’t know what is more preposterous: (1) the fact that they claim that the slaughtering of the whales is for “scientific research” or (2) that they actually believe the arguments they are supplying. I think it would behoove those arguing on behalf of Japan to articulate why exactly do they need to know the migration habits, feeding habits, reproductive habits, etc. It is also convenient for Japan that they cite all these purported scientific research reasons for their hunting; yet conclude with a “by the way” we can hunt the whales for meat, too!

    The author cogently assails these arguments put forth by Japan by demonstrating how they are the only country that slaughters whales for scientific research. Moreover, if the whales are indeed becoming an endangered species as a result, then the situation is direr than probably most people know about. Hopefully the ICJ’s decision appropriately admonishes Japan on the International stage and makes the issue more prevalent to the International population.

  2. Japan’s “scientific research” justification for whaling is nothing more than a guise to continue whaling in order to booster its economy. In Japan, whale soup, in which they use the fin of the whale, is a delicacy. Although Japan may be conducting scientific research regarding reproductive rates, migration routes, and feeding habits, it can be argued that this “research” is solely for the purpose of tracking the whales in order to capture them. The sole motive, therefore, for this “research” is purely economic in nature and not in the least bit scientific. I believe Japan is the only country that uses “scientific research” a reason to pursue whaling is because it is clear to other countries that this justification is a complete farce.

    The ICJ should recognize this activity and the reasoning behind the activity as a frustration to the purpose and spirit of the International Whaling Commission of 1986, which banned commercial whaling, and the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. The preamble of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling recognizes a desire to establish a system of international regulation for whale fisheries to ensure proper and effective conservation and development of whale stocks. It is also apparent from the preamble that this convention recognizes a history of over-fishing whales and the need for safeguards. The purpose, then for this convention, is to provide a proper conservation method of whale stocks.

    With purpose of these commissions and conventions in mind, the ICJ should impose a permanent injunction on Japan’s commercial whaling.

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