Resumption of Antarctic whaling by Japan breaks international law: experts

Tuesday, 1 December, 2015

As Japan’s whaling fleet leaves port today, heading to kill hundreds of whales in the Antarctic, a panel of international legal experts has found Japan's new so-called ‘scientific’ whaling program breaks international law.


The findings by Australian and New Zealand experts, released today by IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) show Japan’s whaling could once again be challenged under international law.


In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Japan’s previous Antarctic whaling program was illegal. In an attempt to get around the Court’s ruling, Japan has launched a new Antarctic whaling program and also recently sought to exempt itself from the ICJ’s jurisdiction on whaling. The panel reviewed Japan’s new whaling program, which will slaughter nearly 4,000 minke whales over the next 12 years in an expanded Antarctic killing zone. They concluded a decision to implement the plan would not be consistent with Japan’s international obligations.


Chair of the Second Sydney Panel of Independent Experts, Donald Rothwell, Professor of International Law at the Australian National University, said: “The Panel concluded that Japan’s new whaling program violates international law and that Australia or other countries still have options to challenge Japan’s actions before international courts.”


Matthew Collis, Policy and Campaigns Manager at IFAW said: “Australia’s landmark victory at the ICJ kept whales safe from the harpoons last summer but Japan is snubbing its nose at international law by resuming whaling in the Antarctic.”


Darren Kindleysides, Director of AMCS, said: “Japan must be held to account for once again illegally whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the pretence of ‘scientific research’.”


Nine years ago the first Sydney Panel set out a case for international legal action against Japan's Antarctic whaling. This was influential in Australia’s decision to take Japan to the ICJ, a case which New Zealand later joined and was ultimately successful, leading to Japan’s decision to not go whaling in the Antarctic for the first summer in 70 years. Now, Japan is once again proposing to illegally hunt and kill hundreds of Antarctic minke whales every year in the name of so-called research.


Matthew Collis said: “Japan must abandon this plan and once again conduct only non-lethal research in the Antarctic. Japan’s new whaling plan has already failed the scrutiny of scientists earlier this year, and now legal experts are showing the plan also fails the tests of legality established by the ICJ. Japan’s efforts to protect itself from future challenges at the ICJ are an admission of guilt that this new plan is not lawful.”


Darren Kindleysides said: “We urge Australia, New Zealand and other governments to collectively do all they can diplomatically to persuade Japan to call off this hunt, and to actively consider options for further legal action against Antarctic whaling.”


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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation