Japan whaling fleet departs, defying World Court, IWC

The whaling fleet has left Japan to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean for the second straight year despite the World Court ruling in 2014 and IWC condemnation this fall.It seems barely a week goes by at the moment without Japan offering its latest snub to the international community. While the world was watching the US elect a new President, Japan snuck out its plan to kill over 3,700 more whales in the North Pacific under the pretence of ‘science’.

Now to follow this up, the whaling fleet has departed Japan in the last few days to begin its second season of ‘research’ whaling in the Southern Ocean since the World Court declared Japan’s previous whaling illegal.

All of this follows hotly on the heels of the last meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in October, where new rules were agreed to subject so-called scientific whaling to enhanced scrutiny. IFAW welcomed these changes at that time but it is clear from Japan’s latest provocation that the powers that be in Prime Minister Abe’s government seem determined to drag Japan’s international reputation further through the mud.

The majority of nations present at that IWC meeting condemned Japan’s Antarctic whaling, so the question is how will they respond now Japan’s fleet has departed once more?

To its great credit the New Zealand government was quick to condemn Japan’s actions, and Prime Minister John Key promised to raise the issue at a summit that took place this week. Other nations must follow this lead, condemning Japan’s actions at the highest diplomatic levels.

However, there is a limit to how much diplomacy can achieve in the face of entrenched domestic whaling interests in Japan. While at IFAW we continue our work to change attitudes inside Japan, we believe there is a place too for further external pressure. With Japan continuing to flout agreed IWC processes and international law, this failure in its duty to cooperate with other nations increasingly leaves Japan exposed to further international legal action.

After all, despite years of diplomacy and even direct action on the high seas, Australia’s victory at the International Court of Justice has been the only thing to actually bring a stop to Antarctic whaling, albeit only for a year. A further legal challenge may be able to have a more permanent effect.

--MC

Post a comment

Experts

Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime