For the first time since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague passed its landmark ruling against the Government of Japan, condemning so-called research whaling in the Southern Ocean, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has convened in Portoroz, Slovenia for its 65th biennial meeting.
Since the ICJ, declared an immediate revocation of all Japanese “scientific” whaling permits, the Japanese delegation is expected to propose a revised commercial whaling initiative under the guise of science. Sea Shepherd suspects that fin and humpback whales will be removed from the Japanese Government’s self-allocated quota, while the quota for minke whales will be drastically reduced.
Even after this landmark ruling by the international court, the Government of Japan has declared its plans to continue whaling in the Southern Ocean during the 2015/16 Austral summer season and is expected to reveal more details during the IWC meeting.
Sea Shepherd is maintaining a presence at the IWC meeting to make clear Sea Shepherd’s ongoing commitment to stopping illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean.
A sailboat from Sea Shepherd Italy with Sea Shepherd logos and volunteers on it is cruising outside of the Grand Hotel Bernardin, where the meeting is taking place, in full view of the IWC delegations; while Captain Alex Cornelissen and Captain Peter Hammarstedt are staying as guests at that same hotel. A press conference will be held at the Hotel on Monday morning.
At the meeting, New Zealand is expected to table a resolution, supported by the United States and Australia, that the judgment of the ICJ must be taken into account before any new scientific permits can be issued by the IWC. The effect of which would be that Japan not be able to resume Antarctic whaling for the next two years until the subsequent commission meeting (as these meetings are held every other year).
Although Sea Shepherd applauds the efforts of New Zealand to prolong Japan’s whaling hiatus, Sea Shepherd is concerned that the resolution could have a potential negative effect – namely that scientific whaling be further legitimized.
The ruling of the ICJ unfortunately does not prevent any other types of so-called research whaling, only the current research program by Japan, JARPA II. The real risk to the success of the ruling, is that the whaling arm of the Japanese Government, the Institute for Cetacean Research, will simply reword its research program to circumvent the spirit of the ruling.
Commercial whaling in the Antarctic has continued under the guise of research since the Moratorium on Commercial Whaling of 1986 through the exploitation of loopholes. It is likely to continue through those same loopholes despite the best intentions of New Zealand.
Sea Shepherd’s position is that the Southern Whale Sanctuary must remain unequivocally closed to all forms of whaling and that any attempt by Japan to violate the ICJ ruling must be viewed as criminal intent.
Further to that, whaling is unlawful under Australian law and most countries have outlawed it. Sea Shepherd is committed to the continued defense of the Australian Whale Sanctuary and the upholding of a 2008 Australian Federal Court ruling that bans whaling in the Australian Antarctic Territory, where most of the whaling takes place.
Sea Shepherd groups will continue to be the unofficial enforcement arm of the IWC’s Moratorium on Commercial Whaling, and is prepared to intercept, obstruct and shut down the Japanese whaling fleet, should whaling proceed commercially under the bogus pretense of science.