Were ordered to stop by Australian court in 2008, & by International Court of Justice in 2014
Sydney, Australia––Sydney Federal Court Justice Margaret Jagot on November 18, 2015 fined the Japanese whaling firm Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha $1 million Australian for killing whales in Australian waters, within the Southern Ocean sanctuary recognized by the International Whaling Commission.
The fine, equivalent to $709,300 in U.S. dollars, is unlikely to actually be paid.
Jagot ruled that Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha had harpooned whales in contravention of the Australian Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act and in contempt of court over four seasons between 2008 and 2013, imposing a fine of $250,000 Australian for each year that the illegal whaling continued.
Will Australia now enforce the law?
Said Sea Shepherd Conservation Society captain Peter Hammarstedt, who testified in the case brought at the initiative of Humane Society International, “The onus for stopping Japan from returning to Antarctica to slaughter whales this year now lies directly with the Australian government.
“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must ensure that Australia’s stance against whaling in the Southern Ocean is a priority in his upcoming discussions with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. To do otherwise,” Hammarstedt emphasized, “would be to lose the faith of the Australian people who are so passionately committed to the protection of the whales.”
Agreed Humane Society International director Michael Kennedy, “HSI is thrilled with both the findings of Federal Court Judge Jagot and the speed with which she came to her decision. We now urge the Australian government to redouble its diplomatic efforts with the Japanese Government to ensure Japan knows the international community condemns any resumption of whaling in the Southern Oceans.”
Japan still defiant
Added Humane Society Legislative Fund president Mike Markarian, “Japanese whalers stayed away from the Southern Oceans after last year’s ruling [in March 2014] by the United Nations’ judicial body, the International Court of Justice, that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling program in Antarctic waters was not legal. Essentially, Japan had dressed up a commercial enterprise as science.
“At first, Japan agreed to abide by the court ruling,” Markarian recalled, “but soon it became clear that Japan intended only to pause and reshape its ‘research program’ to return to Antarctic whale killing in the name of science. Japan now claims that its new lethal research program addresses the shortcomings of the previous program identified in the International Court of Justice ruling. There is little support from the scientific community for this premise, and of course there is no scientific need to kill whales for research.
“Recently,” Markarian continued, “Japan also made a formal declaration to the United Nations that it will not allow the International Court of Justice further jurisdiction over its marine activities.”
New plan for “research whaling”
Elaborated Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald, who has covered whaling issues for longer and in greater depth than any other writer of recent decades (see Harpoon: Into the heart of whaling), “After losing the International Court of Justice case, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government intended to renew ‘research’ whaling to gather the scientific information it needs to manage whale resources.
“Under the latest plan, NEWREP-A, the whalers would harpoon 330 whales in the upcoming Antarctic summer, and kill nearly 4,000 minke whales over 12 years. In the most recent public comment by the Japanese Government, International Whaling Commission representative Joji Morishita said in June 2015 that a final decision to sail south this Antarctic summer was yet to be made.”
Morishita’s June 2015 statement appeared to hedge somewhat on a November 18, 2014 announcement that Japan would resume so-called “research whaling” in Antarctic waters during 2015-2016.
Prior to the International Court of Justice ruling, which came in response to a petition from the government of Australia, Japan had hunted whales under self-set quotas recently running as high as 855 minke whales, 50 humpback whales, and 10 fin whales per year.
Altogether, Japanese whalers had killed 10,349 minke and 15 fin whales in the name of “research,” according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, but the Institute of Cetacean Research, sponsoring the whaling expeditions, had published in internationally recognized scientific journals only two papers based on the findings.
Whales killed in recent years
With Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessels frequently running interference during the past nine winters, the Japanese fleet killed only about 250 minke whales in the 2013-2014 “whaling season,” and killed just 103 minke whales in 2012-2013. No humpback or fin whales are known to have been killed in either winter. Japanese whalers did not kill whales in the Antartic in 2014-2015, but killed 90 sei whales and 25 Bryde’s whales in the northwestern Pacific between June 11 and August 24, 2015, also in the name of research and in defiance of the now 30-year-old International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling.
Norway, which observed the moratorium until 1994, killed 660 minke whales in 2015, about half of the self-set national quota of 1,286.
Iceland, resuming commercial whaling in 2006, in 2015 killed 155 fin whales and 29 minke whales.