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Humpback whale underwater

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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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Boto © Fernando Trujillo

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Japan finally accepts ICJ ruling applies to all scientific whaling

Has Japan finally accepted that the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) 2014 ruling applies to all its scientific whaling and not just the slaughter of whales in the Antarctic?

The Japan Times is reporting that the Fisheries Agency will “carry out a comprehensive review of its research whaling in the northwestern Pacific Ocean from fiscal 2017”.

In seeking a review, we believe that Japan is also acknowledging that its whaling in the north Pacific falls short of the ICJ criteria and that its whaling is ‘not for the purposes of science’.

But even taking this step, Japan has sought to try and circumvent the IWC, by planning to carry out a review in November long after the IWC meets this October in Portoroz, Slovenia (20th-28th Oct). This timing effectively denies the IWC plenary being able to debate any new proposal until it meets again in 2018.

Maybe Japan will honour the ICJ decision and not issue new permits until the IWC, as the regulatory body recognized by the Court, has been able to consider any new iteration, but I suspect that they hope to persuade some of the IWC scientific committee to endorse the whaling before the IWC can formally meet. However, they may have an uphill struggle.  Many IWC scientific committee scientists have registered their concerns already, supporting a specially convened independent review panel that met in Tokyo and found the case for lethal take had not been made.

Of course, Japan may be bowing to the inevitable but may also practicing the subtle art of deflection; seeking to avoid criticism at the October IWC meeting, by claiming that it is seeking to implement the ICJ ruling fully and hoping to avoid any sanction that some countries may be considering for unlitaerally ploughing ahead with its renewed Antarctic whaling.

The other members of the IWC should take this opportunity to press Japan to end its scientific whaling sham once and for all.

It’s now obvious to Japan’s fisheries officials what has been known to the rest of the world for decades; that it has been carrying out illegal whaling in the Antarctic and the North Pacific and it has been undermining the effectiveness of the IWC moratorium.

In 1982 the IWC voted to give the world’s whales a respite and ended commercial whaling in 1985/86. That moratorium has never been given a chance to be effective as Iceland, Norway and Japan all sought ways to continue the slaughter without a pause.

Japan now has the chance to honour its membership and once and for all abide by the decisions of the body entrusted with the future of the world’s whales.

EU whaling infographic