Japan’s Whale Hunts Ruled ILLEGAL in The Hague! Whales Swim Safer Now!

Pic of Humpback whale jumping out of  the ocean.

Humpback, Right and Minke whales are among those who swim safer now.

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:

‘Today, we evolved some, became a better, more human species.’

We’ve still got a long ways to go, but this is a very large step in the right direction.

pic of John Taylor

John Taylor

Where Have All The Whalers Gone?

Seriously. As late as the 1970′s, Australia and the United States were amongst the whaling nations. After even the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is a pro-whaling organization, called for a moratorium on killing whales, nearly all nations stopped the activity.

Picture of whaling in times past

Back when it was harder to kill a whale, we weren't as much of a threat to them... or ourselves.

Why? What changed? We became to clever, too capable of killing. Where once it was a dangerous and courageous act to go out into the oceans in pursuit of a whale, perhaps kill one or two, men developed power boats and explosive-charged harpoons fired from 50-caliber guns… and the whale populations went from millions to a few hundred thousand in half a century.

Her Deepness, Dr. Sylvia Earle, describes the scenario in her book, “The World Is Blue (How our fate and the oceans’ are one).”  After millions of years of being the apex predator, the supreme beings of the sea, along comes man, figures out how to make things (fuel and gunpowder) explode, and throws off the entire natural order of things in the ocean by invading their world, by killing off beings as smart and long-lived as we are, as though they were a prey species.

Today there are still a few commercial whaling nations.  Japan, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, Indonesia, Norway and Russia all still defy the IWC moratorium. There are still some whales being killed with permit by indigenous people in the U.S. as well. And amongst those nations is the concern “What will happen to us, to our whalers, if we no longer kill dolphins and whales?” Well, where have all the whalers gone from the other whaling nations?

The slack was quickly picked up by other more harmonious maritime occupations. Taiji’s fishermen might actually go catch fish, for example. Or take people out on whale-watching tours. Or transport goods. The argument is vapid. What did all the railroad workers do when airplanes caught on? What did the plantation owners do once slavery was outlawed? They found other jobs, and other ways. Though we humans tend to fear change, we can and do adapt. If we stop killing whales (and perhaps ONLY if we stop killing whales) life will go on.

Is that hyperbole?  No, it’s not.  Taking out an apex predator has far-reaching and profound impacts on the rest of the living beings around them.  Without their natural predators, prey populations first balloon, then starve down to dangerously low numbers.  Everything that eats those fish, squid, and plankton are likewise affected — us included.  Our fate is inextricably linked to that of the ocean and her inhabitants.

Where have all the whalers gone?  Gone to other jobs, every one… and the world is a far better place for it.  Now we need to stop the rest of the killing, so that the natural order of things, so that natural balances can return.  We can take from the ocean, but we cannot strip and rape it as we have been doing, running roughshod over it with reckless abandon.  The ocean cannot survive that… nor can we.

To get a better understanding of the ways in which our fate is linked to that of the ocean without making a carbon footprint, download a copy of Dr. Sylvia Earle’s “The World Is Blue.”   If you prefer a hard copy, you can click here to order that instead.  By following either link, Protect The Ocean gains a small percentage from the sale, and you gain a much larger perspective of the world!

Whaling and Whale Protection – Two more very worthwhile  recommendations:

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Japan Suspends Whaling Season

Whale conservation groups have a victory for now. Japan has announced that they will temporarily suspend the annual whale hunt in the seas of the Antarctic this season, citing the anti-whaling group Sea Shepard as one of the reasons.

Hirosh Kawamura, an official at the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries said, “We have experienced the dangerous attacks from them, it might take the life of crews,” he said. “Considering the safety as the first priority, we decided to halt the whaling temporarily.”

Japan continues to annually hunt whales in the Antarctic, despite the worldwide moratorium on whaling. Japan harvests whales for human consumption using a loophole that states a country may whale legally if its for the purpose of scientific research.

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