The UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherland on 31 March 2014 has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme Jarpa II in the Antarctic Ocean. Japan has agreed to abide by the decision.
ICJ agreed the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo. The court's decision is considered legally binding.
Presiding Judge of ICJ Peter Tomka ruled that the court has decided, by 12 votes to four, that Japan should withdraw all permits and licenses for whaling in the Antarctic and refrain from issuing any new ones. Japan had caught some 3600 minke whales since 2005 but the scientific output was limited.
The court ruled that Japan had not complied with its obligations covering scientific research as set out in Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
In 2010, Australia filed a case in ICJ alleging that the Whaling programme run by Japanese Government was not for scientific research. Rather the programme was commercial in nature.
Japan signed up a moratorium on whaling in 1986 under the International Whaling Commission, but continued whaling in the north and south Pacific under provisions that allowed for scientific research.
Although there is ban on commercial whaling under the International Whaling Commission of 1986, but Japan was permitted to kill a certain number of whales every year for what it called scientific research. The meat from the slaughtered whales is sold commercially in Japan.
The sale of meat from the hunts in restaurants and supermarkets, while not illegal, prompted accusations from Australia and other anti-whaling nations that Japan was cloaking a commercial operation under the name of scientific research.
Japan had failed to prove that under its programme Jarpa II the purpose to pursuit hundreds of minke whales in Antarctic waters every year was scientific in nature.
Japan had maintained that its annual slaughter of 850 minke whales and up to 50 endangered fin whales every year was necessary to examine the age, health, feeding habits, exposure to toxins and other characteristics of whale populations, with a view to the possible resumption of sustainable commercial whaling.
In 2005, Japan began a new program called JARPA II. The objectives of the JARPA II are the following:
a) Monitoring the Antarctic ecosystem (whale abundance trends and biological parameters; krill abundance and the feeding ecology of whales; effects of contaminants on cetaceans; cetacean habitat);
b) Modeling competition among whale species and future management objectives (constructing a model of competition among whale species; new management objectives including the restoration of the cetacean ecosystem);
c) Elucidation of temporal and spatial changes in stock structure; and
d) Improving the management procedure for Antarctic minke whale stocks.
International Whaling Commission (IWC)
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) is the global intergovernmental body charged with the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. It is set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling signed in 1946. The Commission has a current membership of 88 Governments from countries around the World.
In 1986 the Commission introduced zero catch limits for commercial whaling. This provision is still in place today, although the Commission continues to set catch limits for aboriginal subsistence whaling.
About International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, is the main judicial organ of the UN. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
Its 15 judges are elected by the General Assembly and the Security Council, voting independently and concurrently. The Court decides disputes between countries, based on the voluntary participation of the States concerned. If a State agrees to participate in a proceeding, it is obligated to comply with the Court's decision. The Court also gives advisory opinions to the United Nations and its specialized agencies.
Where: in the Antarctic Ocean
When: 31 March 2014