April 4, 2014
Will The Whale Slaughter End Now?
Jarpa II – it sounds innocent enough. It could be the name of a new brand of Asian car or the regal title of a Polynesian king. In fact, Jarpa II is the name given to Japan’s annual program of whale killing in the southern seas and is carried out in the name of science. Anti-whaling campaigners have long fought to end this practice both on the grounds that killing any cetacean is wrong and that Japan’s supposed scientific research was nothing more than a smoke-screen for a commercial operation to feed the demand for expensive whale meat. Now there has been a major victory for those campaigners. After a long bitter fight, the issue came before the International Court of Justice in the Hague and the news of their ruling recently came through.
The panel of 16 judges ruled by a 12 to four majority that Japan’s whaling operation in the southern oceans was not carried out in the interests of science. They ordered a temporary ban on the activity. The action was originally brought to the ICJ by the Australian government four years ago. In their application to the court in 2010 the Australians claimed that the Japanese were failing to “observe in good faith the zero catch limit in relation to the killing of whales.” The argument, however, goes back a lot further than 2010. Back in 1986 the International Whaling Commission introduced a world-wide ban on commercial whaling. In a contentious clause that helped bring us to where we are today, the Japanese were given an exemption that permitted them to kill a small number of whales for research. But when the meat from these catches appeared on the menu in restaurants and went on sale in markets the Australians voiced the concerns of many nations when they accused Japan of conducting a commercial operation “in the lab coat of science.”
The head of the ICJ ruling panel, Peter Tomka, said that the judges could not accept that Japan’s Jarpa II hunting of hundreds of whales (the vast majority being minke whales) in the seas around Antarctica each year had a scientific basis, saying, “The evidence does not establish the programme’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives.” The court ordered that the whaling operation should cease with immediate effect.
Significantly, Noriyuki Shikata, speaking on behalf of the Japanese delegation to the ICJ, said that, although disappointed at the decision, his country would respect the ruling and abide by the ban. No doubt one of the factors influencing Japan’s acceptance of the judgement is their strong economic relationship with Australia. This is a big victory for Australian determination.
Jarpa II has been harpooned and is dead for now. On average the catch was 850 minke. Up to 50 fin whales could also be taken, a whale high on the endangered species list. Since 2005 the operation has killed 3,600 animals but at the hearing Japan could only produce 2 scientific papers based on the catch. This anomaly is over for now and this year at least, somewhere in the rich Antarctic waters there swim families of whales that will escape the harpoon thanks to the long campaign against Jarpa II. But this is just the beginning if all whale slaughter is to end.
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