Japan announced Thursday that it plans to continue its "scientific" whaling program despite widespread criticism it faced at an international forum.
Ocean conservationists had cheered a March ruling by the UN's International Court of Justice (ICJ) that found Japan's Antarctic whaling program was not for purposes of scientific research as the country had claimed, and that it must halt permits for the program.
Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986.
Whale advocates also welcomed a vote Thursday at the International Whaling Commission Meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia, to pass a non-binding resolution put forth by New Zealand that would strengthen the ICJ ruling and "help ensure that no further illegal permits for scientific whaling will be issued," as the International Fund for Animal Welfare explained.
"Illegal commercial whaling went on for way too long under the guise of scientific research. Today the IWC made the right decision to close the loophole that allowed Japan’s hunts to continue freely for so many years," stated Aimee Leslie, head of WWF’s delegation at the IWC meeting. "This is a landmark decision that is great news for whale conservation. If respected, it should stop the illegitimate killing of whales in the name of science."
Japan, however, claimed that the ICJ ruling allowed the nation to continue a "scientific whaling" program, and that rather than respect the respect the resolution, it would return to the Antarctic in 2015 with its plans to be unveiled in November.
Hideki Moronuki, a representative of the Japanese delegation to the IWC meet, said, "The resolution does not ban whaling and does not ban scientific research whaling. It does not have that power."
Such claims prompted rebuke from critics who say Japan's "scientific" whaling program is nothing more than commercial whaling in disguise, bringing unjust death to thousands of the marine mammals.
"The majority of IWC members want to implement the ICJ decision and stop all circumventions of the ban on commercial whaling," IB Times quotes Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, as saying. "Japan voted no, and in a venal parting shot, stated that its whalers will return to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary next year and resume what the world sees as a discredited lethal scientific whaling program."
In another development denounced by conservationists, a bid put forth by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa and Gabon at the meeting to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic failed.
"Non-lethal research on whales in this particular area, as elsewhere, has provided much more reliable and precise information than has ever been achieved by so-called ‘scientific whaling’ or other lethal methods," stated Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whales Program.
"It is very disappointing that such a positive opportunity for whales has been harpooned again by Japan and her allies."