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World Court imposes ban on Japanese whaling

Anti-whaling activists are claiming a major victory after the UN's International Court of Justice ruled Japan must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic.

It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research.

Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it "regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision.” It had argued the suit was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan, where whalemeat is considered a delicacy.

Former Sea Shepherd campaigner Peter Bethune, who spent five months in a Japanese jail after being arrested during a 2010 protest in the southern ocean, was jubilant.

"To come here today to this court and be vindicated – it's an amazing day," he says. "I was paraded around like a common criminal and yet I was fighting something that I always knew was illegal and to have it proven here today, in the highest court in the world, I couldn't be happier."

Mr Bethune said he made sure he was able to hear in person the judgment in The Hague by spending the night in a sleeping bag outside the court.

Limited scientific output
Reading out the near two-hour judgment, Presiding Judge Peter Tomka said the court had decided, by 12 votes to four, Japan should withdraw all permits and licences for whaling in the Antarctic and refrain from issuing any new ones.

It said Japan had caught some 3600 minke whales since its current programme began in 2005 but the scientific output was limited.

Japan signed up to a moratorium on whaling in 1986, but continued whaling in the north and south Pacific under provisions that allowed for scientific research. Norway and Iceland rejected the provision and continued commercial whaling.

It has argued that minke whales and a number of other species are plentiful and that its whaling activities are sustainable.

New Zealand was initially opposed to taking the issue ot the World Court, fearing a rebuff would mean even more whale slaughtering.

But it supported Australia’s court action, which resulted in a three-week-long hearing held last year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has also welcomed the decision, saying it was better than could be expected.

“The ICJ decision sinks a giant harpoon into the legality of Japan’s whaling programme: JARPA II,” he says. “New Zealand has consistently opposed Japan’s so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, which is a practice that is deeply offensive to many New Zealanders."

While the judgment effectively means an end to all whaling in the southern oceans, Mr McCully says the door is still open for Japan to amend its scientific programme but he hopes "diplomatic conversations" will prevent that.

Comments and questions

Excellent ruling, however Bethune is an ass if he thinks that when he broke the law it was justified.

So does that mean his future actions will be lawful? Frankly disappointed in our limp wristed PM and co over this. The Aussies pushed it and now our lot will claim the success.

Glenn Inwood will finally be unemployed !
He is a kiwi employed by the Japanese government for years as a puppet to dribble pro-whaling propaganda and defend its "scientific research" to the media. Will certainly be no loss to "fact based" reporting.

Hear hear! Thank God Japan's farcical "scientific" claims have finally been exposed.

Whale meat is a bit like fillet steak with only a mild fishy note, especially when slathered with gravy. I don't think the Japanese were evil - they have always seen the ocean as a breadbasket.

Regardless of how Japanese people see the ocean, whale meat has only been consumed on any kind of scale in Japan since the end of WW2. There was a food shortage (I wonder why) and the yanks said "go eat whale."

Unlike Iceland, Norway and some other far northern cultures, Japan has no customary history in whaling.

Great ruling but in all reality how much teeth does this court have

It was always a pity that Japan tried to hide its food-gathering activities under the banner of 'research'. They should have been honest in the beginning, like Norway and Iceland, and continued whaling sustainably. After all, why is sustainable hunting for fish OK, but sustainable hunting for whales not?

Iceland stopped whaling many years ago.

Actually, sustainable fishing is all but non-existent. If someone actually succeeded in applying sustainable fishing practices, the fish shops would run out of stock almost overnight.

So they can still go about slaughtering dolphins?

And presumably, this means that Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd can now focus on what is arguably of greater importance: fishing.