After years of litigation the outcome of Australia’s claim to end Japanese whaling in the Antarctic is to be announced on March 31, 2014. The nations dispute whether Japan’s whaling program is a cover for commercial whaling constituting a breach of its international obligations.
Whaling is the hunting of whales primarily for meat and oil. Japan has long engaged in this practice which was recently regulated by the International Whaling Commission (ICW) in 1986 which enacted a moratorium on whaling on an effort to preserve and protect the species. Under the agreement that nations signed in accordance to this moratorium whaling is allowed for scientific purposes but not commercial purposes. Currently, Japanese whaling is conducted by the Institute of Cetaceam Research but the meat from those whale hunts are being sold in stores and restaurants in Japan.
Australia (supported by New Zealand) claims that the Japanese hunting is not a scientific program but it is wholly outlawed commercial whaling. Australia urged that the court order that whaling be ceased as the large-scale killing of whales was commercial and outside the provisons of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific permit clause.
Japan argues that all of its whaling activities are conducted within the IWC guidelines and it is in full compliance with Article eight of the agreement which gives countries the right to issue scientific permits under their own terms. Japan’s argument relies on the fact that scientists often at times cannot come to a consensus to what is science, as artists often conflict on what can be characterized as art. Japan claims that the court can not take it upon itself to establish standards as to what practices constitute science and which practices do not.
Based on the binding nature of the ICJ decision if the decision is found against Japan; it will be immediately forced to alter its whaling practices to conform with the decision. Currently, no whaling activities are occurring in the Antarctic Ocean region.
What do you think? Does Japan have a point, is science subjective and can not be defined by a court? Or, does is Australia correct in its assertion that Japan is using the guise of science to routinely breach its international obligations?