Australia takes Japanese whalers to court


It’s Australia v Japan over whaling in the Antarctic

A landmark legal challenge begins this week in The Hague to end Japan’s whale hunt

Whaling wars

Protesters face off with whalers in the Southern Ocean. Photograph: Sea Shepherd

Australia is hoping to put a permanent end to Japan‘s annual slaughter of hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean, in a landmark legal challenge that begins this week.

Australia, a vocal opponent of Japan’s annual “scientific” hunts in the Antarctic, says it is confident that the international court of justice (ICJ) in The Hague will outlaw the hunts at the end of a highly anticipated case that is due to start on Wednesday.

The whaling fleet attempts to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales every year in the Southern Ocean – which Australia declared a whale sanctuary in 1999 – amid protests from conservation groups and countries in the region.

Australia’s attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said he was confident that the ICJ would ban the hunts before the next expedition begins at the end of this year.

“We want commercial whaling to stop and that includes the so-called scientific whaling programme that Japan has been carrying on for many years,” Dreyfus, who will make Australia’s case at The Hague, told reporters.

“There’s no appeal from the decisions of the international court of justice. Of course we’re hopeful of getting the result that we want,” he said.

Bill Campbell, the Australian agent who will present the opening case against Japan, told the Guardian: “We have taken this case because we believe the whaling being done by Japan is blatantly commercial whaling and is not for any scientific purpose. It is in breach of the international convention.

“There’s no higher court than the ICJ. Both Japan and Australia have said that if there’s a decision they will abide by it. We hope they will decide to outlaw it before the next whaling decision. Our focus is whaling in the southern hemisphere.

“Japan is the only country in the world who carries on whaling on the basis of scientific research. Norway and Iceland do it on a different basis.”

The hearing will end on 16 July and a ruling is expected by the end of the year.

Japan is permitted to catch a certain number of whales every winter for research under a clause in the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) 1986 ban on commercial whaling. Meat from whales caught during the hunts is processed for legal sale in Japanese supermarkets and restaurants.

Critics say Japan is using the IWC provision to conduct commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research, adding that the mammals’ migratory, reproduction and other habits can be observed without slaughtering them.

Japan is expected to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, and to insist that its whaling program is purely scientific and so does not violate the IWC ban.

“Japan believes it has a strong case because it complies with theinternational convention for the regulation of whaling,” said a foreign ministry official in Tokyo who did not wish to be named. “Japanese whaling is a lawful activity, conducted in accordance with those international regulations.

“Japan’s whaling activities are conducted purely to enhance science for conservation and sustainable use, and we’ll make our case based on those facts.”

Japan has killed more than 10,000 whales since the IWC ban went into force in 1986, according to the Australian government.

Australia will argue that Japan is in breach of the ban on commercial whaling and of international obligations to preserve marine animals and the marine environment. In written submissions, it has asked the court to withdraw all whaling permits from the Japanese fleet.

Don Rothwell, an expert on international laws relating to whaling at the Australian National University, believes Australia will struggle to win the case. “If it was an easy case to make, previous Australian governments would have no doubt explored these options,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The arguments that Australia will be making are ones that have never before been litigated or decided before by any international court, let alone the international court of justice.”

The Antarctic hunts have divided opinion in Japan. While many Japanese believe their country has a right to continue its tradition of hunting and eating the animals, a significant number oppose the Southern Ocean hunts because they rely on huge government subsidies.

Japanese activists also point to plummeting consumption of whale meat.

“It doesn’t sell in Japan, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” said Nanami Kurasawa of the Dolphin and Whale Action Network, a Tokyo-based pressure group.

According to a recent study by the Nippon Research Group, whale meat consumption has fallen to about 1% of its 1960s peak. Current stockpiles of unsold whale meat have increased to nearly 5,000 tonnes, about four times greater than they were 15 years ago.

“Selling meat on the open market has been a total failure,” Kurasawa said. “If the court rules in Australia’s favour, it will be a good opportunity for Japan to stop the Antarctic hunts. It would be the intelligent thing to do.”

Japan’s whalers have struggled to meet their quota in recent years amid clashes with the maritime conservation group Sea Shepherd. Earlier this year it returned with a record low catch of 103 minke whales and no fin whales, blaming “unforgivable sabotage” by activists.

Japan’s delegation at the ICJ will be led by the deputy foreign minister, Koji Tsuruoka, who is chief negotiator over Japan’s possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a region-wide free trade agreement that includes Australia.

The foreign ministry official declined to speculate about the outcome of the legal bid, but added: “Japan and Australia have different opinions about whaling, but we enjoy strong bilateral ties and I do not expect the whaling issue to undermine our relationship.”

Dreyfus said both countries agreed that the ICJ was the “best place” to resolve their differences over whaling. “Both countries value our strong bilateral relationship and the friendship forged between our nations over many years,” .

Source: The Guardian

Australia-Japan whaling case in international court

Japan's whaling ship Yushin Maru tows a whale in the Southern Ocean (17 Feb 2013)
Japan aims to catch up to 1,000 whales each year for what it calls scientific research.

Public hearings are under way in The Hague as Australia and Japan take their fight over whaling to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Australia will argue that Tokyo’s scientific research programme – under which it kills whales – is commercial whaling in disguise.

Japan – which aims to catch up to 1,000 whales each year – says it is ready to defend its right to conduct research.

There has been a ban on commercial whaling since 1986.

Australia initiated the legal action at the top UN court in 2010.


The first round of oral arguments began on Wednesday, with Australia taking the floor for three days to set out its case that Japan’s position that its whaling activities are for scientific purposes “is not only untenable, it is dangerous” for whale populations.

Japan will make its counter arguments over three days from next Tuesday. A further round of arguments, including an intervention from New Zealand, will then take place with the case wrapping up on 16 July – though a ruling is then not expected for several months.

The Legalities of Whaling

  • Objection – A country formally objects to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, declaring itself exempt. Example: Norway
  • Scientific – A nation issues unilateral “scientific permits”; any IWC member can do this. Example: Japan
  • Indigenous (aka Aboriginal subsistence) – IWC grants permits to indigenous groups for subsistence food. Example: Alaskan Inupiat

Japan’s whaling fleet leaves for the Southern Ocean in November or December each year, with a quota of of minke whales and fin whales whales to catch for what it says are scientific research purposes. Meat from the whales is sold commercially.

In recent years, catches have fallen substantially, mainly because of disruption techniques employed by anti-whaling activists.

Canberra alleges that the research programme breaches international laws and has no relevance to marine conservation. It says more than 10,000 whales have been killed under the programme.

“Australia’s views on whaling are well established. We strongly oppose all commercial whaling, including so-called ‘scientific’ whale hunting by Japan,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who is representing Australia in court.

“We want to see the practice halted once and for all.”

Tokyo says there are cultural reasons behind the annual hunt and that its whaling is sustainable. It also argues that its research provides information on whale stocks with a view to re-examining the ban on commercial whaling in the future.

“We have a scientific research programme in accordance with the convention on whaling and we are strictly abiding by the treaty obligations,” government spokesman Noriyuki Shikata told the BBC.

New Zealand is supporting Australia at the ICJ and the court’s decision is considered legally binding.

Source: BBC News

Australia censures Japan for ‘dangerous’ scientific whaling

Australia has warned Japan’s “scientific” whaling is a dangerous precedent with potentially catastrophic effects, as the case to end the hunt opened at the International Court of Justice.

Australian Government counsel Bill Campbell, QC, told the court that according to Japan’s interpretation of the global whaling treaty, any member country would be free to decide its own scientific kill.

“I ask the court to consider the consequences if the other 88 member states of the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling had the capacity and conducted whaling on the same basis as Japan,” Mr Campbell said.

Japan asserted its right to take up to 935 minke whales in the Antarctic, he said. “If each were to act the same way, a total of 83,215 minke whales a year would be killed.

“If one took Japan’s view of the convention this would be entirely permissible. Of course, the consequences of taking 83,215 minke whales a year would be catastrophic for the minke whale population but in Japan’s view would be legal.”

Mr Campbell said the court meeting in The Hague had an important opportunity to decide for the world what did, and did not constitute scientific activity, and Australia did not believe Japan’s whaling was scientific.

“In short,  Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science,” he said.

“It simply is not science.”

Mr Campbell was opening four weeks of hearings in the case mounted against Japan, three years after the case against Tokyo was brought by the Rudd Government.

Australia’s arguments and evidence will be heard this week, ahead of a response from Japan next week.

Japan’s delegation leader, Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka, said in a statement outside the court that Japan appeared before the court with “full confidence”.

“Australia’s claim is invalid,” Mr Tsuruoka said. “Japan’s research whaling has been conducted for scientific research in accordance with international law.”

“Japan places great importance on international legal order and the rule of law as a basis of the international society,” he said. “Japan will participate in the proceedings before the ICJ with utmost sincerity.”

An American mathematician has been named as a surprise witness for Australia in the case.
The choice of University of Southern California fisheries stock assessment expert Marc Mangel indicates Australia will be attacking the fundamental scientific basis of the Japanese program.

Professor Mangel’s detailed scientific report is to go before the ICJ, along with evidence from Australia’s Nick Gales, one of the world’s leading proponents of non-lethal whale research. Dr Gales is the chief scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division.

On the Japanese side, only one witness has been notified to the court – a Norwegian expert on whaling, Lars Walloe.

Professor Walloe designed the legal Norwegian commercial whaling program, which is carried out under formal objection to the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whaling.

The case is being heard before a panel of 16 judges, including Australian judge ad hoc,  Hilary Charlesworth from the Australian National University.  The court’s president is Slovakia’s Peter Tomka.

Source: WA today

Japan v Australia whaling case in The Hague — Watch live

For Australia, the case has been a long time coming, but the country’s government will finally get its day in court. Beginning on Wednesday in The Hague, the Australian government’s legal landmark challenge—six years in the making, will ask the ICJ to ban Japan from harpooning whales in the Southern Ocean.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Australia is confident that ICJ judges will order Tokyo to stop its JARPA II research program and revoke Japan’s permit to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.

Commercial whaling was banned in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), yet operating under a special permit granted for ‘scientific research’, Japan continues to hunt around 1,000 whales per year in the Antarctic.

The Australian government and whale conservation groups have long asserted that the license granted to Japan is a form of commercial whaling in disguise. The country says that Japan has killed over 10,000 whales since the commercial ban was first enacted by the IWC.

Australia’s attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, who will attend the case in its third and final week, is certain that the ICJ will, “ban the hunts before the next expedition begins at the end of this year.”

Japan will defend whaling program ‘robustly’

Under the lethal research license, Japan gets to keep and sell the meat of any whales that it processes from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Despite around 5,000 tonnes of whale meat stockpiled in freezers, the country insists on maintaining its whaling program and continues to push whale meat to Japanese consumers.

Even with consumption of whale meat severely declining and Japan’s government facing increasing criticism over the estimated cost of running the program, the country is nevertheless poised to defend its position in The Hague.

According to The West Australian, Japan’s Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, has promised a robust defense. “Japan will fully engage in the case so the country’s position and thinking will be understood,” Kishida said.

The Minister also maintained the legality of the hunt, “Japan’s research whaling is a scientific endeavour carried out legally under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, article 8,” he said.

The case, which will be heard between June 26 and July 16, will be broadcast live and in full on the Court’s website,, under the heading “Multimedia.” The hearings will subsequently also be available as a recorded webcast (VOD) on the United Nations Web TV website:

The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, composed of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term by the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations.

Also known as the “World Court,” it is the only court of a universal character with general jurisdiction. Its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned.


Barbs traded in Aust v Japan whaling case

Canberra’s lead counsel on Wednesday told the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Australia was opposed to any commercial whaling “whether it be carried out under the guise of science or not”.

“Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science,” Bill Campbell QC said at the opening of the three-week hearing.

He argued Japan had breached its 1946 whaling convention obligation not to conduct commercial whaling with the “unlawful misuse of the scientific exception”.

Australia claims Tokyo can’t rely on Article 8 of the convention which allows special whaling permits “for purposes of scientific research”.

Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson SC told the court when it came to genuine science “killing the subject you are studying in order to learn more about it … should be a matter of last resort not the first or default option”.

“Japan can not seek to authorise the killing of hundreds of whales year on year, indefinitely, and yet claim to be acting within a special power for limited purposes,” the solicitor-general told the 16-judge panel.

Mr Gleeson said whale meat was still being supplied to the Japanese market in a business-like operation just as it was prior to Tokyo agreeing in 1986 to the ban on commercial whaling.

Clashes between Japan’s whaling fleet and Sea Shepherd activists have become a dramatic staple of the southern hemisphere summer in recent years.

Norway and Iceland conduct commercial whaling operations but, unlike Japan, they haven’t agreed to the International Whaling Commission ban.

Law professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes on Wednesday told the court Japan was obliged to conform with the purpose of the 1946 convention – namely the conservation and recovery of whale stocks.

“Just like Sleeping Beauty, Japan has been in a deep legal slumber for the past 20 years,” she said through a translator, adding Tokyo had been acting “unilaterally”.

“What Japan needs is to come back to international legality.”

Earlier Mr Campbell had argued that if every party to the convention killed as many whales as Japan wanted to each year more than 83,000 minke whales would be harpooned annually.

That would be “catastrophic” for the population and showed Japan’s view was “dangerous and untenable”, he said.

But Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka says Australia’s claim is invalid.

“Japan’s research whaling has been conducted for scientific research in accordance with international law,” he said outside the court.

Moreover Japan was “proud of its tradition of living in harmony with nature”.

Tokyo will deliver its opening argument inside the Peace Palace on Tuesday.

A ruling isn’t expected for several months but Greenpeace International campaigner John Frizell says if Canberra wins Japanese whalers may never return to the Antarctic.

“Australia should be applauded and I hope they’ll be successful,” Mr Frizell told AAP on Wednesday.

He said if Australia failed there’d be a certain amount of crowing from Japan but it wouldn’t result in more whales being killed because Tokyo was already taking “exactly what they want”.

The whaling case is just the fourth occasion Australia has taken a dispute to the ICJ.

The last time was in 1974 when Canberra opposed French nuclear testing in the South Pacific.

Source:9 News World

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Frank Brouwer

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

~ by FSVSF Admin on 26 June, 2013.

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