Saturday, April 05, 2014

153.2 - Good News: World Court blocks Japanese "scientific" whaling

Good News: World Court blocks Japanese "scientific" whaling

Another bit of good news comes from another court: the World Court in the Hague.

In 1986, Japan signed off on an international agreement establishing a moratorium on whaling. However, every year Japan has continued to hunt hundreds minke whales in the Southern Ocean, which is the ocean that surrounds Antarctica, along with smaller numbers of fin and humpback whales. As justification, Japan cited a 1946 treaty that permits killing whales for the purpose of scientific research.

The problem was that Japan would catch and kill the whales for "studies" that often consisted of nothing more than counting the number of fish in the whales' stomachs - and then, well, you've got all these whales, you don't want to just throw them away, you want to do something with them, so hey, I've got a great idea, let's sell the meat on the commercial market.

It was clear to environmentalists and others for decades that the claims about "research" were just an excuse to evade the restrictions on commercial whaling.

Now, happily, the World Court has agreed. In a 12-4 ruling, the court ordered Japan to stop whaling, declaring that the program was not scientific.

Minke whale
The decision is a major victory for Australia, which brought the suit, and for environmental groups that oppose whaling on ethical grounds. However, it will not mean the end of whaling. First, Japan has another whaling program that was not part of the suit and two other nations - Iceland and Norway - openly hunt whales for commercial purposes, so they are not affected by the ruling either.

Second, the ruling only suspends the program until Japan can come up with a "better designed" program of "research" that does not involve killing so many whales - assuming, of course, that it can.

Despite those limitations, this is still a victory for the whales. Meanwhile, the demand for whale meat is declining even among the nations that still do whaling, enough that, for example, Norwegian whalers rarely reach the limit for their catch because the demand for the meat just isn't big enough.

So it's a step. A small step, but still a step, a step that says that maybe we actually can put an end to whaling.


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