Japanese fleet heads to Antarctica to harpoon whales – despite pending World Court ruling

Japanese fleet heads to Antarctica to harpoon whales – despite pending World Cou
Saturday, 7 December, 2013
Sydney, Australia

The Japanese whaling fleet has left port for Antarctica to train its harpoons on around 1,000 whales – despite a pending World Court ruling on whether or not its actions are lawful.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is urging the Japanese government to recall the fleet and respectfully await the imminent decision from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Australia’s legal case against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling.

IFAW opposes the cruel and unnecessary practice of commercial whaling and was pleased to see the issue brought before the ICJ for scrutiny.

Japan hunts whales in the seas surrounding Antarctica for so-called science despite a worldwide ban on commercial whaling.

IFAW Australia’s Marine Campaigns Manager, Matthew Collis, said: “Japan’s whaling produces sham science and is merely commercial whaling by another name. To launch its whaling fleet while a judgement is still pending from the ICJ shows a lack of respect for the legal process that Australia has initiated. Prime Minister Abbott should be calling on his Japanese counterpart, Prime Minister Abe, to recall the whaling fleet and await the court’s judgment”.

According to Japanese media reports, the country’s whaling fleet is en route to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales, despite global opposition and a struggling market. The Japanese government provides millions of dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies to maintain the ageing fleet.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “Japan risks further damage to its international reputation by pressing ahead with its Antarctic whaling while the World Court continues its deliberations on the matter.

“Japan is also harpooning its own interests by throwing away more taxpayers’ yen to prop up an industry which is clearly dying in the water. This money would be better spent supporting the country’s whale watching industry.”

In a report published in February of this year, The Economics of Japanese Whaling, IFAW showed how the Japanese government even diverted tsunami relief funds to support whaling. Annual government subsidies for Japanese whaling average around 782 million yen (US $9.78m), but in 2011 this increased by around 2.28 billion yen (US $28.55m).

There is no humane way to kill a whale; footage of Japanese whaling has shown whales taking more than half an hour to die. Much of the meat is subsequently stockpiled or sold cheaply to hospitals and schools.

In contrast to a poor market for whale meat, whale watching offers a profitable as well as humane alternative to the cruelty of whaling, worth around US$2.1 billion annually to coastal communities worldwide.

In Japan alone, whale watching generated around US $22 million in 2008. Around 30 whale watching operators currently work from a dozen locations around the Japanese coast, demonstrating that responsible whale watching is the only truly sustainable ‘use’ of whales.


Notes to Editors:

To read or download ‘The Economics of Japanese Whaling’ click here

The ICJ hearing of Australia’s case against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic began on 26 June 2013 and lasted for three weeks. A ruling is expected at any time in the coming weeks.

IFAW has previously convened a series of legal panels (between 2006 and 2009) in response to the escalating scale of scientific whaling by Japan, coupled with the inability of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to address the issue of scientific whaling, in part due to Japan’s tactic of vote-buying at the IWC.

Four international legal panels found that Japanese scientific whaling compromises compliance with a large number of provisions of:

  • The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW);
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora;
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources;
  • The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals;
  • The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty.

While the ICJ case focuses specifically on the “scientific” whaling provisions of the ICRW, the judgment could have important implications for a large number of international treaties and the enforcement of international environmental law.

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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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