Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Japanese Whaling: Australia files with the International Court of Justice

The end of last year's whaling season in the southern oceans was a dismal economic failure for Japan due, in no small part, to the actions of anti-whaling organizations like the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). But it is not exactly clear as to what Japan is planning to do for the upcoming season. Radical activist groups like SSCS are ready to do battle with the Japanese whaling fleet and should that occur, there will certainly be media coverage in the form of news reports and, perhaps, more episodic television.

However, equally important are the quiet efforts that are taking place on the international front, in the world courts. This week, the Australian government filed a written submission to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) calling for an end to Japan's whaling activities in the Antarctic ocean. This is the next step in an international legal battle that has been brewing since Australia first petitioned the ICJ in 2009, advocating a global ban on whaling.

As reported by the Dow Jones Newswire,
"'Despite Australia repeatedly calling on Japan to cease its illegal whaling activities, Japan has refused to do so. That is why the Australian Government has taken this case in the ICJ. The [Australian] Government believes the whaling carried out by Japan is commercial, not scientific, and does not fall within that narrow exception,' the Australian government said in a statement."

Japan's rationale that they can engage in whaling under a "scientific research" provision within the rules of the International Whaling Commission has been questioned by many nations. And there appears to be ample evidence that the whales that have been taken have ended up in the commercial marketplace which is viewed as a direct violation of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Australia's submission with the ICJ will be sealed until 2012, after Japan has had time to prepare a written response. It is hoped that the international legal body will take up the issue and rule in favor of Australia and the whales. It may seem a slow and tedious process, but it is another powerful force - as powerful as the more attention-grabbing activist groups - albeit working from the opposite end of the anti-whaling notoriety spectrum.

Let us hope that the Japanese government will recognize that they are rapidly becoming boxed in a corner by world opinion and should reconsider their position on a destructive and antiquated cultural and commercial activity.

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