The UN's top court has ruled Japan's whaling hunt in the Southern Ocean
should cease "with immediate effect".
The decision came as the court tonight concluded Japan's permits for killing whales were not used for purposes of scientific research and Japan has not acted within obligations of the Whaling Convention. The court found, at 12 votes to four, Japan has not acted under international law by granting permits to kill whales.
"The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the
killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not for
purposes of scientific research," President Peter Tomka told the ICJ in The Hague today.
The court has recommended "Japan shall revoke any extant authorisation to take or kill whales pursuant to JARPA II [whaling programme]" and not issue any more whaling permits.
The decision by the court comes after conservation groups in Australia and New Zealand campaigned to stop whaling in the Southern Hemisphere. The case against Japan's whaling was brought to the court by Australia, with contribution from New Zealand. The issue has led to numerous battles at sea.
Japan allocates itself an annual quota of around 1000 whales in Antarctic waters. It says it kills them for "scientific research", which is exempt from an international whaling moratorium. The whale meat is then sold at high prices in Japan, which is why Australia and New Zealand have argued its actions are commercial, not scientific.
The ICJ in The Hague read a comprehensive statement on the results of the case tonight. The court looked at a number of issues, including what is and is not scientific research.
It said simply because the whale meat was sold commercially in Japan did not mean it was outside the range of "scientific research".
It looked at the objectives of Japan's JARPA II whaling programme, saying it was a reasonable scientific programme and non-lethal methods are not always feasible for research. But it also said there was no evidence Japan considered non-lethal alternatives, instead dismissing them mostly as too costly.
The court then looked at the scale of Japan's whaling programme, saying there were questions over increased sample sizes between the country's first whaling programme and JARPA II. JARPA II also lacked transparency in how its sample sizes were determined, raising doubts as to if its methods fit its objectives. The programme's targets and intake in some cases exceeded its stated objectives, casting doubt on its scientific purposes.
The decision could be the beginning of the end for Japan's operations in the Southern Ocean.
"The chances are quite remote that Japan would blithely ignore a judgement made by the International Court of Justice," says International Fund for Animal Welfare's Patrick Ramage.
Conservationists say even after tonight's ruling, the fight will go on to save those still being slaughtered in the north.