On 26 June at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Australia made its first arguments against Japan’s scientific whaling program which they assert is a cover for commercial whaling in violation of international treaties. Ever the political hot potato, the move is sure to ruffle some feathers both at home and abroad.

In 1986 the International Whaling Commission had ordered member nations to cease all commercial whaling indefinitely. Japan was originally one of the member countries who opposed the moratorium but has since continued to carry out what it calls “research whaling” which is the act of whaling with the intent to study the animals.

In May of 2010 Australia brought their case to the ICJ and both nations filed written statements outlining the merits of their cases.  Now the oral arguments are being made with Australia currently presenting theirs.

On the 26th, representatives from Australia claimed that Japan’s scientific whaling program was continuously running on a large-scale and was, in fact, a commercial whaling operation. They also stated that Japan was distorting the treaty and the killing of several hundred whales every year is not science.

They are requesting the ICJ to ban research whaling in the Southern Ocean completely on the grounds that Japan has been violating the Washington Convention of 1975 which regulates the international trade of endangered animals and plants in addition to the IWC’s moratorium.

Japan will make their official arguments starting 2 July. However, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Koji Tsuruoka made a statement regarding Japan’s whaling program:

“We have been engaging in scientific whaling honestly in order to gather valuable scientific knowledge. If we properly explain this to the court, they and the international community can get an understanding of this.”

After both parties have made their cases the ICJ will go into deliberation. In a process that should take around half a year, the decision may determine the future of whaling. If the court decides in favor of Japan then anti-whaling groups legal arguments could essentially lose all credibility.

On the other hand, if the court rules in favor of Australia, then Japan will be obliged to cease all whaling in the Southern Ocean. Such a decision could also very well trigger a similar one against the research whaling in the Northern Pacific Ocean and potentially landslide into a complete end of whaling from Japan.

Source: Mainichi (Japanese)
Image: Wikipedia