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?