The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Japan loses whaling case in international court

The International Court of Justice on Monday ordered a temporary halt to Japan’s Antarctic whaling program.

The long-awaited ruling said that the practice is not for scientific purposes as the Japanese had claimed.

Australia had sued Japan at the United Nations’ highest court for resolving disputes between nations in hopes of ending whaling in the icy Southern Ocean.

Reading a 12-4 decision by the court’s 16-judge panel, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said Japan’s program failed to justify the large number of minke whales it takes under its current Antarctic program, while failing to meet much smaller targets for fin and humpback whales.

The ruling is here. 

The decision is a major victory for Australia and environmental groups that oppose whaling on ethical grounds, though it will not mean the end of whaling, said the Associated Press.

Japan has a second, smaller program in the northern Pacific. Meanwhile, Norway and Iceland reject a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission and conduct for-profit whaling.

Japan had argued that Australia’s suit was an attempt to force its cultural norms on Japan, equivalent to Hindus demanding an international ban on killing cows.

The finding by a 16-judge panel at the ICJ upheld Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling program is carried out for commercial purposes rather than scientific research, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Japan has been able to kill unlimited numbers of whales in the Antarctic under the treaty, arguing that its does so for scientific purposes.

“In light of the fact the [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” said presiding judge Tomka.