TOKYO––Defying a March 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice and a September 2014 International Whaling Commission resolution, the Japanese government on November 18, 2014 announced that it intends to resume so-called “research whaling” in Antarctic waters during the winter of 2015-2016.
The Japan Fisheries Agency has proposed to the IWC a new “research whaling” quota of 333 minke whales per year for 12 years––nearly 4,000 whales in all.
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.
But 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.
IWC said “Stop!”
The 16-member International Court of Justice, the chief judicial organ of the United Nations, on March 31, 2014 ruled by a vote of 12-4 that Japan “shall revoke any extant authorization, permit or license granted” to allow whaling in the Antarctic region, “and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance of that program.”
International Court of Justice president Peter Tomka told media that the court “was persuaded that Japan had conducted a program for logistical and political considerations, rather than scientific research,” summarized Andrew Darby of the Sydney Morning Herald.
Japan kept whaling in NW Pacific & coastal waters
Following the International Court of Justice ruling, Japan cancelled plans to hunt whales in the Antarctic during the winter of 2014-2015, but killed 90 sei whales, 30 minke whales, and 25 Bryde’s whales in northwest Pacific and coastal waters during June and July. This was markedly fewer than the 132 whales killed in the northwest Pacific and 92 whales killed in Japanese coastal waters in 2013.
Meeting at Portoroz, Slovenia, the International Whaling Commission by a 35-20 vote in September 2014 approved a resolution from New Zealand to enforce the ICJ ruling, “and to impose strict review standards on any new proposals for scientific whaling,” blogged Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle. “The IWC vote means that the Japanese plan must be carefully considered by the IWC’s Scientific Committee, using standards set by the International Court of Justice, and then by the commission itself.”
Sea Shepherds to continue Antarctic missions
The Japan Fisheries Agency pledged at the time that the Institute for Cetacean Research would send research vessels to the Antarctic in the winter of 2014-2015 to count whales, rather than hunt them. The Sea Shepherd Conservation responded that it would be there, too, to target toothfishing undertaken in violation of international treaties.
“Operation Icefish will be the first campaign of its kind,” Sea Shepherd director of ship operations Peter Hammarstedt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “using innovative direct action tactics in a bid to make a citizen’s arrest of the half dozen illegal toothfish operators who continue to exploit these vulnerable fish populations.”
Also in September 2014 the International Whaling Commission authorized aboriginal Greenlanders to kill up to 176 minke whales, 19 fin whales, 10 humpback whales, and two bowhead whales per year.
But the U.S., the European Union members, and Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico and New Zealand called upon Iceland to observe the international commercial whaling moratorium in effect since 1986.
Norway, which observed the moratorium until 1994, killed 594 minke whales in 2013. Iceland, resuming commercial whaling in 2006, in 2013 killed 134 fin whales and 35 minke whales.
(See also “International Court of Justice rules against Japanese research whaling,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/04/03/intl-court-of-justice-rules-against-japanese-research-whaling.)
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