I have said it before and I will say it again: if you want to persuade Japan to stop whaling, then you must do so through diplomacy and legal methods. It’s not that I am a huge fan of whaling, but the actions of Sea Shepherd are totally ineffective, counter-productive, extremely dangerous and highly illegal. They qualify as acts of piracy, as they are a direct attack on the safety of unarmed vessels on the high seas.
For those who actually would like to see Japanese whaling come to an end, there has recently been a major step in that direction. And no, it did not happen because a group of idiot activists were ramming Japanese vessels.
U.N. Court Orders Japan to Halt Antarctic Whaling
PARIS — The United Nations’ highest court on Monday ordered Japan to halt its annual whaling hunt in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, saying that its present program was not being carried out for scientific purposes, as Japan has claimed.
In a 12-to-4 judgment, the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that Japan was in breach of its international obligations by catching and killing minke whales and issuing permits for hunting humpback and fin whales within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, established by the International Whaling Commission.
Reading a summary of the judgment, presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said that the present “research program,” dating to 2005, has involved the killing of 3,600 minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited.” The ruling suggested instead that Japan’s whaling hunt served political and economic reasons.
Lawyers attending the proceedings said there was a gasp in the audience when Judge Tomka ordered Japan to immediately “revoke all whaling permits” and not issue any new ones under the existing program.
“I rarely heard such an unequivocal, strong ruling at this court,” said a lawyer with long experience at the court who asked not to be named because he is working on a case in progress.
The ruling is binding, and Japan cannot appeal. No immediate reaction from Japan was available, although it has said it would abide by any judgment in the case. But a Japanese delegate said in earlier hearings that Japan might consider withdrawing from the whaling commission, which oversees management of the world’s whale populations.
The court left open the possibility for future whale hunting if Japan redesigned its program. Tokyo has said that it needs data to monitor the impact of whales on its fishing industry and to monitor the whale population’s recovery from overfishing.
Unfortunately, the times article went on to quote a Sea Shepherd representative on the issue, which is a shame, because those idiots should not be regarded as a respectable authority on the issue or even legitimate anti-whaling activists. There are plenty of groups out there who oppose Japanese whaling and do so through legal and sane means.
It’s important to note that while this is a big step, it does not mean that Japan won’t conduct any further whaling or that the issue is closed. First, this only applies to the Antarctic region. Although that is the most high profile region of Japanese whaling, the Japanese also conduct whaling in the northern Pacific and that is not affected by the ruling.
Another important consideration is that the decision only reflects Japan’s commitment to the International Whaling Commission treaty. There is no standing international law against whaling in general. The only reason Japan is restricted from whaling is that the country signed a treaty to abide by IWC rules. Those rules include a ban on whaling for all but research purposes. It should be noted that the research clause was, in part, inserted into the general ban on whaling to appease Japan, who wished to continue whaling activities. Calling it “research” makes it more politically palatable.
Therefore the court has ruled that Japan must cease whaling because their activities do not quality as “research,” and therefore are not in line with the rules of the treaty. However, because it’s a voluntary treaty, Japan could potentially respond by simply choosing to withdraw from the IWC. They have the right to do so. They just might end up doing that, as they have considered withdrawing before.
As a result of these limits, this ruling should not be regarded as an the ultimate victory in the fight against whaling. What Japan will do next is unclear. Though they have stated they will abide by the ruling, they may decide to leave the IWC, thus voiding their treaty obligations, or they may simply shift the focus of their whaling program to other ocean regions. None the less, this is still a major step toward reducing or eliminating Japanese whaling. If the effort to do so is successful, it will be through diplomacy, appeals to the Japanese public and legal efforts and not through harassing whaling vessels with dangerous and illegal stunts.