Captured short-finned pilot whales on the deck of a whaling
ship. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has welcomed an
international court's decision that Japan's whaling in the
Southern Ocean is illegal but has warned Japan could still try
to sidestep it.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) overnight found
Japan's Southern Ocean whale hunt is illegal under
Delivering its judgment on Australia's case against Japan,
which saw evidence presented during a three-week hearing last
year, the court found Japan's whaling programme in the
Antarctic failed to meet the conditions for scientific
whaling under regulations set by the International Whaling
Commission (IWC), the body charged with the conservation of
whales and the regulation of whaling.
It was ruled that no further permits for scientific whaling
should be issued under Japan's scientific whaling programme.
In a 12-4 majority judgment, the UN court sided with
Australia, finding that Japan's program fell short of
following scientific methods, the Associated Press reported.
"The court concludes that the special permits granted by
Japan for the killing, taking, and treating of whales ... are
not 'for purposes of scientific research'," presiding judge
Peter Tomka said.
Attorney-General Chris Finlayson gave evidence on behalf of
New Zealand during the court case in the Hague July last
He told the court that Japan was wrongly interpreting article
eight of the whaling convention, which deals with scientific
"Under Japan's interpretation ... the convention is solely a
vehicle for the optimum utilisation of whales through
commercial whaling - nothing more than an industry cartel,"
Mr McCully said today that the court had ordered Japan to
cease whaling under one program but he warned it could try to
put together a new programme that would meet some of the
tests the court had outlined.
"We hope that won't happen and in the short term it won't
because this is going to take a bit of working through," Mr
McCully told National Radio.
"This judgement ... is very firm and very clear but it still
does leave Japan with a decision to make after they've
digested this, which is to look at whether they try to devise
a new programme that is scientifically based that embark upon
whaling in the Southern Ocean again. Our task is to make sure
that we carry out a diplomatic conversation that dissuades
them from embarking on that course."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) described
the decision as a major victory for whale conservation and
IFAW's global whale programme director Patrick Ramage said it
meant whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary would be fully
protected from commercial slaughter conducted under the guise
"We respectfully urge Japan, Iceland and Norway, the last
three countries still killing whales for commercial purposes,
to accept that whaling has no place in the 21st century and
to act in compliance with the judicial precedent set by the
Sea Shepherd Australia chairman Bob Brown said the finding
vindicated "a decade of courageous actions by Captain Paul
Watson and his crews".
"All across Australia people will be celebrating this win due
to Sea Shepherd and their huge public support for protecting
whales in this country that led to the Australian Government
to take this legal action."
Earthrace Conservation founder Pete Bethune, who was at the
court for the original case said: "I am absolutely thrilled.
Today will go down in history as a great day for whales, for
conservation and for justice."
Prime Minister John Key told 3News that with 16 judges on the
panel at the International Court of Justice, the decision was
"I think it's more comprehensive than probably even we had
hoped it would be."