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Australia Takes Japan To International Court Over ‘Scientific’ Whaling


Australia has pushed forward with its submission to the International Court of Justice in The Hague this week, in relation to Japan’s annual whale hunt in the Southern Ocean. Japan has been hunting and killing almost a thousand whales per year, and Australia is arguing in the international court that this practice cannot be justified as science.

Although there has been an international moratorium on whaling since 1986, Japan has continued to hunt whales in Antarctic waters under a loophole allowing the killing of whales for scientific research purposes. Opponents of Japan’s continued whaling contend that the whales are really being slaughtered for their meat.

A biologist from the University of California Santa Cruz, Marc Mangel, told the International Court of Justice this week that the killing of specimens, or “lethal take”, needs to answer specific and meaningful scientific questions to count as legitimate science. Mangel was called as a witness by Australia to the court proceedings. Australia argues that the gathering of raw data about the killed whales, without having a specific scientific question to be answered, does not count as legitimate science.

Japan contends that the whales it hunts every year contribute to scientific research aimed at establishing whether whale stocks are recovering from over-hunting in past decades. However, the meat from the whales is still eaten in Japan and considered a delicacy. Japan further insists that its whaling is not a threat to the survival of any species of whales.

Both nations have agreed to abide by the court’s decision. A verdict in favor of Australia would see an end to Japan’s whaling in the Souther Ocean.

Image CC licensed by guano: A minke whale being hauled up to a whaling ship.

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