Thursday, December 10, 2015

Japan Resumes Whaling

After a temporary setback last year in the International Court of Justice that declared its alleged research whaling program unscientific, Japan has resumed commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean under a new rubric. Whale advocates thought the decision represented the end of commercial whaling by Japan--not. Instead of the illegal JARPA II program, Japan cynically created another acronym NEWREP-A to describe a research program that is commercial whaling by any other name. Experts from the international Whaling Commission have already said their is not enough information in the documents to determine if the program is acceptable under international standards. Japan countered by unilaterally declaring the proposal sufficient to proceed with whaling. Japan's defiant response has been declared "a slap in the face of the International Commission." Nevertheless, sale of whale meat that is harvested under lethal scientific research programs is legal under IWC rules. Japan is exploiting this loophole to the maximum extent. In October Japan said it would no longer accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice on maritime resources to avoid more embarrassing litigation over its whaling activities. Opposition is bound to heat up over the Japan's controversial hunting.

Australian courts have been somewhat sympathetic to whaling opponents. The Australian Federal Court fined Japan $1 million for breaching an earlier injunction covering Australia's declared whale sanctuary. Japan, however, does not recognize Australian jurisdiction over part of the Southern Ocean within its declared exclusive economic zone. Australian greens have called for Australia's navy to shadow the whaling fleet and collect evidence of any illegal activities. The Australian government is unlikely to comply with this demand for direct intervention, choosing instead to engage Japan on this issue at the diplomatic level.

Without a legal platform Japan is willing to accept, there is little except direct action that can bring Japan's whale hunting to an end. The conservation group Sea Shepard has mounted harassment campaigns in the past that have reduced the size of the catch substantially. Recently computer hackers told the press that they crashed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official website to protest the resumption of whaling. Japan's fleet left port on December 2nd bound for the Southern Ocean. The whaling fleet plans to take 333 minke whales--a lower quota than in previous years. No public word yet on what Sea Shepard's response will be this season.