This morning, the International court of Justice issued a long awaited decision in Australia’s case against Japan for illegal whaling under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. Japan lost, 12-4. Japan had claimed that its whaling was part of legitimate “scientific research,” but 12 of the 16 judges on the ICJ did not buy it. Looking at the details of Japan’s whaling program, the court concluded that Japan was actually engaged in impermissible commercial whaling.

As Julian Ku notes at Opinion Juris, it will be interesting to see whether Japan complies with this decision. ICJ judgments are not necessarily binding, and the ICJ lacks any means of enforcing its decisions. In this case, however, Japan chose to participate in the case and said it will accept the judgment. Even if Japan complies, however, this may not mean an end to whaling. Insofar as the judgment was heavily dependent upon the details of how Japan conducts whaling now, it is possible that more carefully controlled could pass muster — and I would not be surprised to see Japan try.

Here are links to the opinions and an early news report.

UPDATE: Duke’s James Salzman comments:

Nearly four years after the initial filings, the International Court of Justice just came down with a decision on Japan’s whaling program in Antarctica (JARPA II). Japan has been making use of the scientific permit exception to continue whaling since the moratorium launched in the 1980s. . . .

The bottom line is that 12 of the 16 justices were not persuaded that Japan’s whaling has been reasonably related to its scientific research objectives.

The decision represents a huge victory for anti-whaling advocates and countries. It leaves open the question, though, of whether Japan will continue with smaller but better-justified whaling programs as well as uncertain political implications for countries such as Norway and Iceland that entered reservations to the moratorium.