Japan Wants to Start Whaling Again: Here’s Why They Can Legally Do It

Japan’s Prime Minister has said that, despite a court order banning Japan’s whaling practices, the country will begin whaling again in the near future. So how will Japan restart its so-called scientific whaling research?

In a speech made to lawmakers last Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary commission that, “I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources. To that end, I will step up efforts further to get understanding from the international community.”

The PM added that whaling is a part of Japan’s history and that “It it regrettable that this part of Japanese culture is not understood.” To that end, he appears ready to pursue working around a UN court order that currently bans Japan’s whaling research program.

The ICJ and the Qualified Victory for Anti-Whaling Groups

Earlier this year the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the UN,  issued a historic ruling saying that Japan’s recent open-ended whaling practices in the Southern Ocean were illegal and did not meet the criteria for Japan’s “scientific” needs, as has been Japan’s reasoning.

Australia brought its case before the Hague, claiming that Japan was using the pretense of scientific research in order to get around the 1986 moratorium on whaling that Japan signed and ratified. Japan had been allowed to keep whaling under Article VIII of the Whaling Convention which allows for medical research exemptions, but Australia argued that Japan was exploiting that rule and had essentially ignored the international law.

The ICJ found that while the research program, known as JARPA II, might “broadly” be called scientific research, Japan had failed to “establish that the program’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving” its stated goals.

Japan had received special permits to carry out this so-called research. The court blocked those permits from being issued with Judge Peter Tomka saying, ”Japan shall revoke any existent authorization, permit or licence granted and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program. Japan has violated the memorandum on commercial whaling in each of the years during which it has set catch limits above zero for minke whales, fin whales and humpback whales.”

The ruling also called into question why Japan must always kill the whales if, that is, Japan’s intended purpose really is for scientific research. Commentators noted at the time that this is about as scathing as the court could be without being overtly hostile.

Australia was pleased with the ruling, as were wider whaling groups, but this was always a qualified success. Why? Because there’s a simple way Japan can still conduct its whaling operations.

How Japan Can Continue Whaling

The ICJ ruling did not in fact ban Japan from whaling, as many reports may have led us to believe. What it did say was that Japan cannot continue its JARPA II research program because the program is unlawful. As such, all Japan need do is present a new program to the International Whaling Commission in September. If that appears to conform to regulations, Japan could be back to whaling shortly thereafter. Now Japan’s whaling program might receive stricter scrutiny than before, but the threshold remains relatively low.

It should also be noted that Japan’s extensive coastal whaling, which affects many small cetaceans and some whose numbers are dangerously low, is not affected by this court ruling, nor are its operations in other waters — so Japan is still whaling, just not in the Antarctic.

There is evidence that with the suspension of this season’s (2014-2015) Southern Ocean whaling efforts, the whale meat market in Japan and abroad has suffered, but Japan’s fishing minister continues to insist that dealing in whale meat isn’t technically illegal. That is disputed by international groups, but gives an idea of how Japan and the international anti-whaling community continues to talk past one another.

It seems, then, that despite the ICJ ruling, Japan will now attempt to resume its whaling practices in the Southern Ocean. We may see further attempts at court intervention from countries like Australia, or it may be that Japan will at least for a time follow the rules on so-called scientific whaling. The point is, though, it now seems whaling will probably return to the Southern Ocean by next year.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

121 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for the article.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe1 years ago

Scientific research, my butt. They are liars and murderers!!

Bev Woodburn
Bev Woodburn1 years ago

THE JAPS HAVE A LAW OF THEIR OWN. THEY IGNORE THE LAWS OF OTHER COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE. AND NOW TRYING TO GO AGAINST THE UNITED NATIONS ORDER TO STOP WHALING IN THE ANTARCTIC, THEY ARE AS EVIL AND SADISTIC AS THE CHINESE, SOUTH KOREA AND OTHER ASIANS COUNTRIES. THEY ARE ALL A DISEASE ON THIS PLANET AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE TO STOP THESE VILE AND EVIL SUB HUMAN JAPS AND ASIAN MONSTERS FROM KILLING THE WILDLIFE AND ALL ANIMALS IN THE VILEST PREMEDITATED CRUELTY AND ABUSE THAT THEY DELIBERATELY COMMIT. THESE ACTS ARE 'WICKEDNESS' AND 'PURE EVIL' AT ITS WORST. UNFORGIVING.

Biby C.
Biby C.1 years ago

Instead of just banning whaling, the sale of whale meat should be banned too. Then they will not have a reason to do their 'scientific research'!

GREGORY ROBERTS
GREG ROBERTS1 years ago

THIS ONE IS A DISGRACE. WHALING AND POACHING ARE THE SAME THING AND BOTH ARE ILLEGAL. JAPAN NEEDS TO STOP NOW . WE NEED TO STOP DOING BUSINESS OR ALLOWING THEIR CITIZENS INTO THE U.S.A. TILL ILLEGAL AND OUT RIGHT DENIAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW TO CONTINUE JAPAN NEEDS TO BE BARRED FROM DOING BUSINESS WITH ANY COUNTRIES. SANCTIONS ALSO NEED TO BE DONE.

IF THAT DOES NOT SEND A MESSAGE TO THE LEADER OF JAPAN WE NEED TO SEND AND DEPORT EVERY JAPANESE CITIZEN NOW. BAR THEM AND THERE PRESIDENT FROM ENTERING THE U.S.A. OR ANY COUNTRY.

ANY COUNTRY THAT WANTS TO CONTINUE KILLING THIS WAY INCLUDING THE U.S.A. DRASTIC MEASURES HAVE TO BE MADE. I WILL GO AS FAR AS SAYING TO FIRE OUR GOVERNMENT MEMBERS WHO MAKE DEALS FOR THIS.

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.1 years ago

Smoke and mirrors! When we have destroyed everything around us we can always eat our money. Ketchup anyone?

Mary Cromley
.1 years ago

The Japanese want to preserve their culture - by murdering whales? What a bunch of idiots and murderers.

Mandy H.
Mandy H.1 years ago

Bugger, this is bad news. You'd think that courts would be a lot more specific in their wording since the words used to decide a case make case law. However it does depend as to where the court challenge was directed, generally you need to bring a specific action to court which means that it's likely Australia was only allowed to challenge the JARPA II 'research' rather than Japanese whaling in general. It's along the same idea that even if you know a criminal is doing the wrong thing you need to have an actual charge to bring to court in order to prosecute them. It's highly likely that if Japan sets up a new program which isn't really scientific research than Australia will challenge that one too.

Carole R.
Carole R.1 years ago

Sad

Borg Drone
Borg Drone1 years ago

I hope their boats sink..