(Transcript from World News Radio)
The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ordered an immediate stop to Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean.
In a majority decision of 12 to 4, the court has ruled the annual whale hunt is not for scientific purposes as Japan has claimed.
This report by Greg Dyett and Brett Mason.
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It was a ruling delivered by Judge Peter Tomka that stunned the Japanese delegation.
“The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II* are not for purposes of scientific research.”
JARPA II is the name of what Japan has called its research program.
It has involved the killing of about 3600 minke whales since 2005.
Outside the court, Greenpeace activist John Frizell said he was not surprised the Japanese representatives were left very disappointed with the verdict.
“They should look shell-shocked, because it was a pretty devastating conclusion.”
For years, conservation groups such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd have derided Japan’s claim that its annual hunt was for scientific purposes.
Now, they have been vindicated in the International Court of Justice.
Japan had relied on Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which permits killing for research purposes.
But the judge concluded the scientific output to date appeared limited.
The International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to revoke existing permits and not to issue new ones.
The decision is final and not subject to appeal.
SBS Europe Correspondent Brett Mason was in court for the ruling.
He says the Japanese delegation is now considering its options.
“They have told us here at The Hague that they will respect the court’s decision, but they’re going through the fine print to see exactly what this means, how they can potentially carry out scientific research in the future.”
International-law specialist and Australian National University professor Don Rothwell has told the ABC Japan might still be able to do just that.
“If Japan was to continue a whaling program within the legitimate parameters of Article 8 of the Whaling Convention, a critical issue then would become, ‘How many whales could Japan seek to legitimately take for scientific-research purposes and what would be the cost of that research program?’ And I think that’s a question that any country would need to look at, especially if the quotas that could be legitimately set would be exceptionally small, compared with, say, the very large quotas that Japan is currently setting for minke whales, which are 850 whales per year, plus or minus 10 per cent.”
Japan’s chief negotiator at the International Court of Justice, Koji Tsuruoka, says his country is not going to quit the 88-member International Whaling Commission.
It had threatened in the past that it might do so.
But Mr Tsuruoka would not elaborate on future strategies when pressed on the subject by Brett Mason.
(Mason:) “Are you committed to remaining a part of that international agreement, or would you consider doing what Iceland and other countries have done in order to continue their whaling programs?” (Tsuruoka:) “The same. I can only repeat the same answer.” (Mason:) So you’re not ruling out potentially abandoning those agreements? (Tsuruoka:) Please don’t put words into my mouth. I have not stated anything.”
Japan would be free to continue whaling if it withdraws from a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling or from the 1946 treaty.
The judgment left New Zealand conservationist and activist Pete Bethune in tears outside the court.
Bethune served time in jail after an incident in February 2010 when he boarded a Japanese whaling vessel in the Southern Ocean.
“I spent five months in prison in Japan fighting for this, and there’s been so many people and groups who have contributed to make this day happen. It’s an amazing day.” (Reporter:) “What does it mean to you?” (Bethune:) “It just means … it means all of our efforts haven’t been wasted. My crew and I, we nearly got killed in Antarctica fighting for this. I spent five months in prison fighting for this. And to see it come back here … today is a good day for justice.”
Whale meat is considered a delicacy in Japan and remains popular with some consumers.
But Japan, Iceland and Norway are the only countries that continue to hunt whales.