This week, Greenpeace International, one of the world’s leading anti-whaling organization announced that marine mammal advocates can “jump for joy” as there will likely be no whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer!
This would be the first year since 1904 that no whales are hunted in the Antarctic’s icy waters, thanks to a 12-4 majority ruling at the International Court of Justice on Monday that Japan’s annual minke whale hunt was not really for scientific purposes, as the nation claimed. The court ordered Japan to cease permitting for its Antarctic program.
The United Nation’s International Court of Justice is the world’s only court for resolving disputes between nations. The rulings at this respected court are binding and not subject to appeal. Sovereign countries however can and occasionally do defy legal rulings, but to Japan ‘s credit, it did pledge to abide by the Court’s final decision.
Over the past century, Japan has slaughtered up to a thousand whales (primarily minke) annually in the Southern Ocean, thus this ruling – and Japan’s pledge – is a phenomenal victory for whales. It essentially halts one of the world’s biggest whale hunts. The judgment was applauded by Australia, which filed the case against Japan in 2010, and by marine mammal advocates, who have been calling for an end to whaling for ethical reasons since the 1970s.
Peter Garrett, the former Australian environment minister who launched the suit, told the Australian broadcasting Corp radio that he felt elated and vindicated.
“I’m absolutely over the moon, for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all.”
Karli Thomas with the Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaign is one of those people. She was equally elated, but also cautious in saying:
“We welcome this outcome which vindicates our view that whaling in the South Ocean is not necessary for science and should be ended. We urge Japan to abide by this decision, scrap the factory ship Nisshin Maru and not attempt to continue whaling by amending the program and claiming it is now scientific.”
The Captain of Sea Shepherd, Alex Cornelissen, celebrated the victory in court, but warned he will have ships ready to return to the Southern Ocean should Japan choose to ignore this ruling.
Since 1975, Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Society have been sending a fleet of anti-whaling vessels to the Antarctic to challenge the morality of hunting such intelligent animals. Activists truly put their lives on the line. They would launch high-speed inflatable rafts and position themselves between the harpoons of the huge whaling ships and the whales being hunted. Greenpeace leader, Bob Hunter, for example was nearly killed when a harpoon was launched right over his head. Starting in 2008, the T.V. show Whale Wars brought the high seas tension playing out between activists and the whalers into the living rooms of people worldwide. Consequently, anti-whaling sentiment continued to grow.
More recently, subsidies that have kept commercial whaling profitable have also been challenged. Sadly, challenging the economics of whaling may do more to end the slaughter than any of the moral or ethical arguments, by merely reducing its profitability. Nevertheless, victory for all whales is in sight.
Senior Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, Phil Kline, says he has waited a lifetime to share this news and added, ”This is proof that, together, we can make real change to protect the world’s whales and the oceans that they live in.”
If only we could share this news with our ocean brethren, surely they would be jumping for joy as well.
The photo at sea was taken on Jan. 5, 2014 and supplied by Sea Shepherd Australia. It shows three dead minke whales on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru, in the Southern Ocean. (AP Photo/Tim Watters, Sea Shepherd Australia)
The second photo, provided by Greenpeace and taken by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert shows two activists wearing masks of former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and President Barack Obama in front of the Japanese ship, the Nisshin Maru. Notice the the word flanking the side of the ship.
Next page: Video footage of the Sea Shepherd in Action and Swimming with Minke Whales.