Japan Halts Antarctic Whaling

Since 1986, Japan, along with Iceland, avoided the ban on commercial whaling by claiming the whales they killed were for scientific research. Now, Japan has issued a public statement stating that they will cancel their 2014 whaling season in the Antarctic.

Australia, with help from New Zealand, brought Japan before the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) back in 2010, with the goal of ending their whaling programs. They mainly argued against their annual Southern Ocean hunt, believing that the whaling vessels were only killing the whales for profit, not scientific research.

Recently, another hearing took place to investigate some of Japan’s alleged research programs. After their investigation, the court ordered Japan to revoke any whaling permits they had, and put restrictions on future permits.

“But the Japanese government erred in thinking that this loophole … provided a legal basis for continued whaling as long as it asserted that it was for research,” Jeffrey Kingston, a studies professor at Temple University in Tokyo, told news.com. “It did not anticipate that the research argument would be exposed as a sham.”

Some whalers even went so far as to make signs in English, stating their claim for using the whales as research. However, no one disputed the fact that the whale meat ended up being made available for public consumption.

Recently, even the people of Japan have offered little support for whaling. However, it was the aggressive anti-whaling campaigns that hardened Japanese officials against the possibility of  ending whaling altogether. Many saw it as an attack on their culture, and continued their programs.

The ICJ discovered that Japan’s JARPA II research program had failed to even examine different ways of fueling their research. Had the program explored ways to hunt fewer whales, perhaps the ruling would have been different.

“Whale meat is an important source of food, and the government’s position to use it based on scientific facts has not changed,” Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference on Tuesday in response to the ICJ’s judgement.

However, Japan continues whaling in other parts of the world, and Tokyo has yet to issue a statement on next year’s Antarctic whaling season. Norway and Iceland continue their whaling campaigns, despite the added pressure this court ruling has placed on them.