Although a global ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, around 1,000 whales are still being killed cruelly and unnecessarily every year. Japanese, Norwegian and Icelandic whaling fleets continue to harpoon these intelligent and sentient creatures. Backed by their governments, but opposed by much of the world, they hunt for profit, not out of necessity or for science, as some claim.

IFAW campaigns against commercial whaling

The World Court’s historic ruling

Protecting whales is one of IFAW’s top priorities and we have  a long history of successfully championing a number of initiatives, including a decade at the forefront of stopping the slaughter of whales for so-called ‘scientific research’ in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.

Despite a global whaling moratorium since 1986, Japan has continued whaling in the Antarctic. IFAW convened four panels of world-class legal experts between 2006 and 2009 in Paris, London, Sydney and Canberra which concluded that Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling was unlawful. Drawing heavily on these legal arguments, Australia launched its case in May 2010 at the International Court of Justice against Japan’s Antarctic whaling, the first case brought before the court involving a wildlife issue. The World Court heard oral arguments from Australia and Japan in the summer of 2013 and issued its final judgment the following spring.

The court ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling was “not for purposes of scientific research,” should be halted with “immediate effect,” and that no further permits should be issued under the current programme. For the first time in more than a century whales in the Southern Ocean will be free from commercial slaughter.

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture has announced its plans to file proposals for a revised research program in the Southern Ocean starting in late 2015. IFAW scientists and legal experts are already working with governments to ensure Japan fully complies with the letter and spirit of the World Court judgment. We are also working to encourage Japan to end its “scientific” whaling in the waters of the North Pacific.

Check out the ICJ ruling news roundup and IFAW’s ICJ ruling Q&A to find out more about the implications of this historic judgment.