Australia v. Japan

26 Jun 2013

Information note N°1
Whales at the International Court of Justice


Today, Australia is voicing out the cry of the whales by defending them against so-called Japanese scientific whaling. Over the next 3 weeks, public hearings in the case concerning ‘Whaling in the Antarctic’ (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) will be heard in The Hague at the International Court of Justice. The judgment is expected to be delivered within 4 to 8 months. Australia is hoping that a decision be taken within the next four months, before the next whaling season in the Southern Ocean.

Since 1986, a moratorium on all commercial whaling came into effect for member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). From 1987 onwards, Japan has exploited a loophole under Article VIII of the IWC treaty which permits scientific whaling. Despite the moratorium and the establishment of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in 1994 by the Commission, Japan has persevered in its whaling activities. Indeed, the Japanese scientific expeditions “Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic” JARPA I and JARPA II (1) have led to the massacre of over 10,000 whales in the Southern Oceans. In the name of science, Japan has placed whale meat from both JARPA I and JARPA II on commercial sale, including for pet food.

Australia, along with 29 countries, and the European Commission, have opposed Japan’s scientific program through diplomatic means. Since 2003, Japan has also been called upon, via IWC resolutions, to halt and indefinitely suspend all lethal whaling. The Japanese whaling fleet is old and battered and not up to international standards particularly for ships operating in ice-covered waters. Not only is the fleet a menace for the survival of whales it is also a menace for the safety of seafarers and for biodiversity (2).

When considering the current state of science, wide-ranging information is needed and can only be obtained via non-lethal methods, such as whale behaviour, man’s impact on whales especially noise and on whale’s positive contribution to the ecosystem. A Japanese proverb states that “Seven bays benefit from just one whale,” indeed the positive contribution of whales, from the cradle to the grave, provides an ocean full of biodiversity for current and future generations (3).

As all other diplomatic channels have failed, Australia has turned to the International Court of Justice. The final decision of the Court will be binding. In the case of a positive decision for the whales, Japan will have to renounce its self-allocated quota of 850 Antarctic minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpback whales.

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(1) “Japanese Whale Research Program under Special Permit in the Antarctic” known under the acronyms JARPA I for the first program and JARPA II for the second program. JARPA I commenced in the season from 1987-1988 and continued for 18 years until the 2004-2005 season. JARPA II commenced in the 2005-2006 season and is ongoing. The whaling program is conducted by the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research under permits granted by the Japanese Government. The principal objective of the programs is to assess the status of whale stocks. JARPA I was titled: “The Program for Research on the Southern Hemisphere Minke Whale and for Preliminary Research on the Marine Ecosystem in the Antarctic”. The stated objectives to the IWC were the “estimation of biological parameters” the “elucidation of stock management” and the “examination of the role of whales in the ecosystem and the effects of environmental changes on the species”. The JARPA II program is titled: “Monitoring of the Antarctic Ecosystem and Development of New Management Objectives for Whale Resources”. The objectives of the research are defined by Japan as “monitoring of the Antarctic ecosystem”, “modelling competition among whale species”, “elucidation of temporal and spacial changes in stock structure” and developing future management objectives while “improving management procedure for Antarctic Minke whale stocks”. JARPA II is targeting Antarctic Minke, fin and humpback whales.

For information since 1994, Japan has also conducted another lethal scientific research program known as JARPN I in the Western North Pacific. The title of the research program was “Clarification of Minke Whale Stock Structure in the Northwestern Part of the North Pacific”. This program continued with JARPN II which was launched in 2000 with the stated objective of studying feeding ecology, stock structure and environmental impacts. JARPN II is targeting Minke whales, Bryde’s whales and sperm whales.

(2) Whales, Nagoya Blabla, 29th October 2010

The Nisshin Maru: not to Catch but to Scrap, 26th September, 2012

(3) Of Whales and their Usefulness, Jun 2009, update April 2010 (pdf)




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