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Japan's Whaling Harpooned by the International Court of Justice

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Posted March 31, 2014

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Today the UN International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s whaling program in the Antarctic is illegal.

Thumbnail image for beaching whale.jpg

Even after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling, Japan has continued to kill whales – and sell the meat for profit – by exploiting a loophole in the convention that allows countries to take whales “for purposes of scientific research.”  Today’s decision finds in no uncertain terms that Japan’s hunt was NOT “for purposes of scientific research” and therefore in violation of international law and the IWC’s ban on commercial whaling.

This is a huge victory for whale conservation.  The landmark ruling means that thousands of whales will no longer be slaughtered under the guise of science.  It also means that whales will once again be safe in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

In a vote of 12 to 4, the court ruled that there were several aspects of Japan’s “scientific whaling” program – which has killed thousands of whales since its inception – that cast doubt “on its characterization as a programme for purposes of scientific research.”  Those factors include the fact Japan did not consider using non-lethal methods; the scale of Japan’s program and number of whales taken; the open-ended time frame of the program; its limited scientific output to date; and the lack of cooperation between Japan and other domestic and international research programs in the Antarctic Ocean.

The court then ordered Japan to revoke all permits and “license[s] to kill” in the Antarctic and refrain from granting any new permits.  The decision is final, with no possibility of appeal.

Commendably, Japan has said that it will abide by the decision.

This is a historic ruling that will revitalize our ongoing efforts to save the whales.  There are only three countries that still kill whales for commercial purposes – Japan, Iceland, and Norway.  Today’s decision sets the legal bar that there is no place for commercial whaling in the 21st Century.  Now is the time to end commercial whaling once and for all.

Photo Credit: NOAA

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claudia christiansenMar 31 2014 01:24 PM

I've dreamt of this day for 30 years! I now dream of the day of NO whaling! These magnificent gentle giants deserve to live without deliberate human harm. They are the masters of the oceans, we are their servants of safety, protection....We are loved by them and they by us.

This day is a very special one indeed. Progress.

Irene HuskissonMar 31 2014 02:12 PM

Crying Happy Tears with Hope for the Whales of the Future.

Gilli SleighApr 1 2014 04:31 AM

Just so so so happy for the Whales and all cectacians, Hooray for Sea Sheppard and all those brave wonderful people who stood by their word, no matter what to bring this about. I have a good feeling that we humans are on our way towards mending ourselves and the damage, and stopping the abuse of all other earthlings and the Earth itself.....let's not be too late. This is HUGE!!!!! .....And THANK YOU JAPAN X

Maryke PetruzziApr 1 2014 12:22 PM

This is a great day for Whales for the Sea Sheppard and crew and for justice! I celebrate and praise those who have fought t he good fight in defense of this majestic animals!!! Thank you to all involved and citizens of the world who lift up there voice for those who can't!!!!

Janine AragiApr 1 2014 04:58 PM

We all have been waiting furiously along side you Shepards of the Oceans for this moment !! I didn't know when and forever grateful. The whales will know it when they no longer fear those large white killing ships in THEIR homes. Thankyou all & Mr Bob Barker as well.

I keep an eye out for ya Sea Shepards

ronApr 1 2014 07:31 PM

Great news!!!!!!!!!

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