International Court of Justice to hear case on Japan's Antarctic whaling

Sadly, it may be some time before there is any judgment from the ICJ.In two weeks’ time, something rather unusual will take place in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The court, which covers cases involving a wide range of issues, will be entering into somewhat uncharted waters when it hears Australia’s case against Japan regarding whaling in Antarctica, the first ever case involving wildlife management.

Australia launched the case back in 2010 and although three years might feel like a long time to you and me this is, in fact, remarkably quick by International Court of Justice standards!

But the case has been a lot longer in the making than that. I remember when I joined IFAW back in 2005, Japan had just revealed its plans to increase its whale killing in the Southern Ocean.

With the International Whaling Commission (IWC) proving unable to address the issue of so-called ‘scientific’ whaling despite the global moratorium on commercial whaling and its declaration of the waters around Antarctica as a whale sanctuary, IFAW sought to encourage countries to raise the issue of whaling outside of the IWC.

One avenue we began to investigate was the possibility of a challenge to Japan’s scientific whaling under international law. As a result, IFAW convened a series of legal panels, recruiting some of the world’s finest international lawyers and legal experts to assess the options.

Over a number of years, these panels consistently found Japan’s scientific whaling ‘unlawful’ under international law. What we trust and hope now is that the International Court of Justice will find the same.

Sadly, it may be some time before there is any judgment from the Court - possibly not even before Japan is due to begin whaling again in Antarctica at the end of the year.

However, when the Court hearings begin on June 26, we can be sure of one thing - the sham of ‘scientific whaling’ will be exposed for all to see.

As somewhat of an environmental first for the International Court of Justice, the Court’s decision will be important for future compliance with all multilateral environmental agreements, not just those relating to scientific whaling.

Each new whaling season sparks international outcry from around the world. The gravity of this situation explains why Australia made the decision to take Japan to the World Court, which is a very serious action.

Whaling is a cruel and outdated practice which produces no science of value and is unacceptable in the 21st Century.

Japan should see the writing on the wall and avoid international embarrassment by ending its Antarctic whaling now.


For more information about our efforts to end commercial whaling visit our campaign page.

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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation