In a decision being heralded as a win for the whales, the UN's International Court of Justice on Monday ruled that Japan's Antarctic whaling program is not for purposes of scientific research and that the country must therefore halt permits for this marine mammal-killing program.
While a section of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling allows for the taking of whales 'for purposes of scientific research,' 16-judge panel ruled today that "the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II" are not for those purposes.
The ruling marks a victory for marine wildlife campaigners who have long challenged Japan's claims behind its whaling program.
Among the reasons the Court cited is the lack of evidence of Japan of looking for non-lethal means as way of meeting its supposed research objectives, the overlapping goals of JARPA II and its predecessor program, JARPA, that don't substantiate an increased number of lethal samples, the open-ended time frame of the program, and its limited scientific output to date.
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Marine wildlife conservation organization Sea Shepherd—which has confronted Japan's whaling on the open seas—cheered ICJ's ruling.
"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," stated Captain Alex Cornelissen of Sea Shepherd Global, who was in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
"Though Japan’s unrelenting harpoons have continued to drive many species of whales toward extinction, Sea Shepherd is hopeful that in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling, it is whaling that will be driven into the pages of the history books," Cornelissen stated.
Japan said it was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling but that "as a state that respects the rule of law, the order of international law and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the court."