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Monday, 31 March 2014

Australia wins whaling case against Japan in The Hague




UN ruling ...AUSTRALIA has won an international lawsuit against Japan’s Southern Ocean whaling program and the International Court of Justice has ordered Tokyo to cease the killing immediately.

Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said Japan had not justified the large number of minke whales it takes under its program, while failing to meet much smaller targets for fin and humpback whales. Japan has said it will abide by the decision, but it does not necessarily mean a permananet end to whaling.

The United Nation’s court ordered a halt to the issuing of whaling permits until the program has been revamped. The ICJ, by 12 votes to four, said Japan had not acted in compliance with its obligations under the international whaling convention.

Four years ago former environment minister Peter Garrett helped launch legal action against Japan in the International Court of Justice to try and put a stop to its controversial Antarctic whaling program. It was the first time any country had used an international court to try to stop whaling. Mr Garrett said he felt vindicated by the decision Labor made in 2010 to pursue the case against so-called “scientific whaling’’ in The Hague.

“I’m absolutely over the moon, for all those people who wanted to see the charade of scientific whaling cease once and for all,’’ the former Midnight Oil singer told ABC Radio this evening. He wasn’t the only one celebrating the outcome, with many taking to Twitter to share the news and pay tribute to the anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd Australia chairman and former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown congratulated the captain of the fleet that made its name in daring clashes with Japanese whalers in Antarctica.

“A whale of a win! Paul Watson is a global hero and Australians can all feel proud. Sea Shepherd Australia chairman,’’ Mr Brown posted.

Current Greens leader Christine Milne also paid tribute to the “champions” at Sea Shepherd, calling the ICJ verdict “justice at last”.

Australia had asked the court to ban Japan’s annual hunt on the basis it was not “for purposes of scientific research’’ as allowed under Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Canberra argued Tokyo was cloaking a commercial whaling operation “in the labcoat of science’’ despite agreeing to a 1980s ban on harpooning. Japan, however, countered during a three-week hearing in mid-2013 that the ICJ didn’t have the authority to decide what was, or wasn’t, science. It insisted lethal research was both lawful and necessary.

But in UN court last dismissed Tokyo’s argument. The court didn’t accept Australia’s argument that “scientific research’’ needed to have defined and achievable objectives, use appropriate methods, be properly peer reviewed, and avoid adverse events on the stocks being studied. Instead it focused on whether Tokyo’s program was “for purposes of’’ scientific research, however that was defined. Judge Tomka said the key was whether “the elements of the program’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to its stated scientific objectives’’.

Killing whales could be science and wasn’t “unreasonable per se’’, Judge Tomka said. Furthermore, the fact whale meat was sold afterwards to fund future hunts did not, on its own, mean the program was illegal. But the court found there could be a greater reliance on non-lethal methods.

The court president said Tokyo should have analysed the feasibility of non-lethal methods when setting the quota size for taking whales. “There is no evidence that Japan has examined whether it would be feasible to combine a smaller lethal take, in particular of minke whales, and an increase in non-lethal sampling as a means to achieve ... research objectives,’’ he said. Tokyo was criticised for doubling its target to 850 minke whales each year after 2005 without first assessing the research effectiveness of its earlier program, which had a much smaller sample size. Japan hunts around a thousand mostly minke whales annually in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean.

Australia and environmental groups say the hunt serves no scientific purpose and is just a way for Japan to get around the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission in 1986. Although the popularity of whale meat is declining in Japan, it is considered a delicacy by some, and meat from the hunt is sold commercially.

Japan has said it will abide by the ruling of the court, known as the World Court, which is the United Nations’ court for disputes between countries. At the start of last night’s judgment hearing, Judge Tomka said that “research objectives alone must be sufficient to justify the program’’. Australia wins whaling case against Japan in The Hague

 STAFF REPORTERS AND WIRES NEWS CORP AUSTRALIA MARCH 31, 2014 7:10PM