Information note N°2
Whales at the International Court of Justice
The Hague, The Netherlands, 1st hearing of Australia, June 26th – June 28th
Impressions on the Australian point of view during the hearings from June 26th 27th and 28th 2013
During the first three days of the Australia v. Japan court case at the International Court of Justice, Australia has been presenting arguments stating them loud and clear to wake Japan up from over twenty years’ of sleep. Japan, indeed, had fallen into a deep legal sleep like a “Sleeping Beauty”, and the international community should not wait until a “beautiful white whale” comes along to wake them up. Such was the metaphor used by Mme Boisson De Chazournes when she presented the court with Japan’s interpretation on the wording of the text of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). She stated that contrary to Japan’s reading of the 1946 IWC, the Convention enforces whale conservation and does not provide for the reinforcement of commercial whaling. As to the breaching of international law, and the continuation of whaling by Japan, Australia’s arguments are threefold. Firstly, the use of whale catchers and factory ships, secondly, a clear breaching of the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling and thirdly, a violation of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary specifically with regard to fin whale catches.
As the story unfolds the different chapters become clear. Japan never had the intention to respect the moratorium, the only reason they signed it in the first place was because the United States threatened to block Japan’s access to their fishing grounds and markets. Not only had Japan fallen into a legal sleep, with a dream-like interpretation of article VIII of the IWC which permits scientific whaling, they had also fallen into a long scientific slumber. According to Australia, Japan has been carrying out commercial whaling under the “lab-coat of science”. A long delusional dream has led Japan to think that they can take up to 935 minke whales per year. If all Contracting Governments had fallen into the same unilateral slumber, up to 82,215 minke whales could have been killed every year. Science is built on solid ground, through solid hypothesizing, sound experimentation and an exchange with the scientific international community. The current state of knowledge does not require 7,000 whale ear drums to determine the age of the animal. Simple non-lethal techniques are available and statistically more accurate. Since JARPA II was launched in 2005 the Japanese scientific committee has produced only two peer-reviewed scientific articles. Obviously Japan requires thousands of dead whales “per” peer-reviewed scientific paper. JARPA I was not built on a scientific vision or roadmap and it did not provide the scientific stepping stone on which JARPA II is supposed to follow up on. These research programs have proven useless for science and deadly for the animals. On the question of whaling, it is high time that Japan woke up to the 21st century.