Success! Japan’s Scientific Whaling Program Has to Stop, Rules World Court

In a historic victory for whales that has been years in the making, the United Nations’ highest court ruled on Monday that Japan’s whaling in Antarctica is illegal under international law and has to stop immediately.

The ruling, which was handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, will end Japan’s scientific whaling program, which has targeted thousands of fin, minke and humpback whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary since it began.

Big thanks to Care2 member†Jelena Radovanovic†for creating a petition urging the court to end the whaling program and to the over 67,000 Care2 members who signed†it.

Despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, Japan has continued with annual whale hunts that it claims are being conducted to collect scientific data. Conservationists, however, have long argued that Japan has been abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for scientific research whaling.

In 2010, Australia challenged Japan with New Zealand’s support in the ICJ over Japan’s JARPA II research program, arguing it was just a cover for commercial whaling. The risk was big because there would be no appeal for whichever side lost, and if the court sided with Japan it would have been a huge blow to global campaigns against whaling.

Fortunately for whales, the court agreed with Australia, ruling that Japan was in breach of its international obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling by hunting and killing whales in the Southern Ocean.

Among other conclusions, the court found that Japan had no justification for the quota of whales it was setting annually, had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives and that the research program fell seriously short on science.

The court ordered Japan to revoke existing permits or licenses related to its scientific whaling program and refrain from granting any in the future.

Although the ruling won’t stop whaling entirely, it will make the Southern Ocean the safe haven for whales it was intended to be and is being applauded by whale advocates and conservationists around the world.

“With today’s ruling, the ICJ has taken a fair and just stance on the right side of history by protecting the whales of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the vital marine ecosystem of Antarctica, a decision that impacts the international community and future generations,” said Captain Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global.

Whether or not whaling itself is environmentally sustainable, many now argue that it’s not an economically viable option for Japan anymore and that it’s only still around because it’s being largely subsidized by the government.

Even if the court had sided with Japan, a drastically declining demand for whale meat poses another huge problem for the industry and has raised hope that decreasing appetites for whale meat will help kill the international market. According to the AP, the amount of whale meat stockpiled for lack of demand has nearly doubled over 10 years, with about 4,600 tons stockpiled at the end of 2012.

While Japanese officials say they will abide by the ruling, Sea Shepherd stated that it will have ships ready to return to the Southern Ocean to defend whales next winter just in case.

Care2 member Jelena Radovanovic helped influence the outcome of the ruling by simply starting a petition and putting pressure on the court to take action. If there’s an issue you care about, you can make a difference by†starting your own petition.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson4 years ago

Can it be enforced?

Mark Donners
Mark Donner4 years ago

Iceland is the other renegade and terrorist nation illegally murdering whales. Iceland must be isolated and punished. It's government is an outcast from civilize nations.

Valerie B.
Valerie B4 years ago

I LOVE SUCCESS STORIES! Congratulations! Please help me make my own success story and please sign and share my petition...

Thank you for caring!

Lea Silhol
Lea Silhol4 years ago

According to the latest news, the Japanese answer to this ruling is to "create a new research program" to screen their unlawful whaling. The fight is not over, but this decision of the International Court is still an important step, and an historic victory. Let's stay tuned, and see what comes next year. Meanwhile, Taiji dolphins still need our help. :-(
And of course a deep bow down to Sea Shepherd's Antarctic crews, who gathered priceless evidences, year after year, to achieve this remarkable result. Though the Press and other activists groups "forget" that a large part of this achievement is de facto SSCS's, many people advocating for whales for a looong times don't miss that point, nor minimize the importance of direct action on this field.

Jeanne B.
Jeanne B4 years ago

Congratulations Jelena! We love you on Care2!

Jeannet Bertelink

No history at all ,at this moment they do the same what they always do, hunt again.
And there answer is hunt for science.
That s a big lie, everybody knows.
Its really sad, so I am not happy anymore!

amanda Ashworth
amanda Ashworth4 years ago


Lynn C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you.