Today public hearings closed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case between Australia and Japan over whaling by Japan in the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.
In May 2010, the Australian government initiated legal proceedings in the ICJ against the government of Japan alleging that so-called ‘scientific’ whaling by Japan is in breach of the country’s international treaty obligations. Whaling for commercial purposes has been banned internationally since 1986 and the Southern Ocean was declared a whale sanctuary in 1994 affording it an additional layer of protection.
The Australian government has requested the ICJ to order the government of Japan to cease its ‘scientific’ whaling program in the Southern Ocean, and to provide assurances and guarantees that it will not take part in any further ‘scientific’ whaling in this zone. New Zealand has intervened in support of Australia’s case.
After extensive commercial whaling in the twentieth century brought most great whale species in the Southern Ocean close to extinction, the governments party to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) established the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, recognizing the critical importance of protecting whales in this special place.
Japan exploits a clause in the IWC treaty that allows for the killing of whales for “scientific purposes.”
“Since the whaling treaty was signed there have been great scientific advances that allow data about whales to be obtained through non-lethal means. The International Court of Justice has heard abundant evidence on why hunting hundreds of whales in the Southern Ocean is not necessary for science,” said Wendy Elliott, species programme manager at WWF.
“In this day and age there is no reason to kill whales for scientific research. WWF strongly hopes for a positive ruling by the court that will end whaling in the Southern Ocean.”
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The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, held public hearings from June 26 to July 16, 2013 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.
WWF's Save the whale, save the southern ocean report can be found here.