The International Justice Court in The Hague has ruled in favor of Australia (with New Zealand as Mediator) and against Japan’s claim that they have killed some 10,000 Minke whales under the auspice of Research. The Court released a decision of considerable length, in which it examined all relevant points and issued what is, by all accounts, a fair and considered opinion. Their ruling: Japan must cease ALL whaling operations and revoke all permits issued in the name of Research.
A Japanese representative grudgingly acknowledged the decision, saying that Japan would accept the International Court’s decision, as they believe in being a nation of laws. While he allowed that there may be other statements from Tokyo, it was clear that they had no intention of violating the ruling or leaving the IWC as a way of sidestepping the decision. This is a huge victory for the whales, both in the southern oceans’ marine sanctuary and throughout the world. Although the ruling is specific to Japan, it is precedent, and other whaling nations are now on notice. Only aboriginal sustenance takes and legitimate research have been lawful for the past 28 years, but Japan has claimed the loophole, citing some vague premise of research which cannot be performed on a live whale, as their way of making the commercial whaling legal. Under the premise of Research, it is lawful for the remainder of the whale to be sold.
In many ways, this ruling is the perfect opportunity for Japan to get out of the whaling business. A proud nation, they have been stout in their opposition to groups like Sea Shepherd’s interventions, trying to claim that Paul Watson and his crew were pirates and eco-terrorists when they attempted to uphold the law by interfering with the Japanese whalers’ attempts to load the killed whales onto their processing ship. (Dead whale flesh goes bad very quickly, owing to the blubber layer which traps heat within the whale’s body, even in near-freezing waters.) With a reported 4,600 tons of unsold whale flesh in freezers for the past few years, it’s clearly not profitable for them to be hunting the leviathans either. The ruling provides a way for them to cease whaling without saving face.
Yours truly was very much moved by this momentous event, and posted about it personally on Facebook. Much to my surprise, Viki Psihoyos wrote me this morning to inform me that I’d been mentioned in the New York Times:
“A Facebook comment by John Taylor, a Coloradan with a passion for ocean conservation (which I saw via the filmmaker Louie Psihoyos), succinctly summarized the significance of this decision:
We’ve still got a long ways to go, but this is a very large step in the right direction.