Japan Ordered to Stop Its ‘Research’ Expeditions

 Japan Ordered to Stop Its ‘Research’ Expeditions

Japan will not hunt any more whales in the South seas and in the Antarctic, thanks to a decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which yesterday saw that the Japanese did not have any justification to continue this activity.

Every year, Japanese vessels kill nearly 1,000 whales in these waters to feed a program called Jarpa II which, according to the Tokyo Government, has scientific purposes, such as measuring the impacts of the fishery on the populations of these animals, as well as examine their age, eating habits and exposure to toxins. The science produced by the program has been appropriated in just two scientific articles since 2005. At this time, Japan has hunted 3,600 whales for the so-called studies, i.e., 1,800 mammals for each publication.

The ICJ ruling puts final nail in Jarpa II under conditions with which it currently operates, but gives gives Japan the possibility of reformulating the program and convert it, seriously, into a scientific effort and not an umbrella to continue the sale of an asset that, on the other hand, appears to have a very bright future.

Official figures show that, for late 2012, Japan had almost 4,600 tons of stored cold whale meat, because the market has been slowed down by the ambient pressure on a commercial activity internationally prohibited since 1986 by the International Whaling Commission, to which Japan is ascribed (Norway and Iceland, two whaling countries, do not recognize this instance).

But it not only seems to be the ambient pressure. In 2011, the whaling industry had to defend itself publicly when the Japanese Parliament decided that $30 million funding for recovery from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that year were instead used for whaling. These funds joined the subsidies that the Japanese Government already offered to the whalers on the order of $10 million. For that moment, research published by the environmental organization Greenpeace estimated debt of $24-million industry.

The move by Parliament, although not illegal, roused the wrath of several sectors of Japanese society: 18 organizations, including Consumers Union and the Japanese Federation of Environmental Lawyers, signed a declaration condemning the budget increase granted to the whaling industry.

Since the International Whaling Commission entered into force, in 1986, it is estimated that Japan has hunted 10,000 whales under the guise of scientific research.

In the reading of the verdict of the Court, the President of the jury, the Slovak judge Peter Tomka, said about Jarpa II that «the evidence does not allow establishing the design and implementation of the program to have a reasonable relationship to achieve the purposes for which it is proposed». And he added that «the Court concludes that special permits issued by Japan for hunting, transport and treatment of whales, connected to Jarpa II, are not related to scientific research». The decision of the High Court, which counted with a vote of 12 against 4, also be binding, is not appealable.

The case in the ICJ was opened in 2010 following a demand by Australia, who challenged the so-called scientific purposes of the program of hunting that partly occurs in waters that for this country, as well as for New Zealand, are whale sanctuaries.

This, sadly, does not mean the end of whaling, because this activity also comes in other waters, as the North Pacific, although in numbers lower than the hunt in the Antarctic. Before the reading of the judgment, a delegate of the Government of Japan said that they were evaluating the possibility of leaving the International Whaling Commission, according to a report of The New York Times. The Japanese Minister of fisheries, Yoshimasa Hayashi, assured last year that his country would never halt its long tradition and whaling culture.