The United Nations’ highest court for resolving disputes between nations, the International Court of Justice, has ordered a temporary halt to Japanese whaling in the Antarctic in a lawsuit brought by Australia.

Three dead minke whales on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru, in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia)

Three dead minke whales on the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel Nisshin Maru in the Southern Ocean. (Photo: Sea Shepherd Australia)

    Japan has been claiming for years the right to kill unlimited numbers of whales in the Antarctic, arguing that its does so for scientific purposes. The finding by the ICJ’s 16-judge panel held that that the two peer-reviewed papers submitted by the Japanese since 2005 – based on results obtained from just nine killed whales – was basically a smokescreen that “was not proportionate to the number of animals killed.”

    “In light of the fact the [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited,” said presiding judge Tomka.

    The decision will not mean the end of whaling. Japan has another whaling program in the northern Pacific and Iceland and Norway, who rejected a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission, continue the practice. Norway set a quota of 1,286 north Atlantic minke whales last year, saying stocks are plentiful.

    Iceland and Norway do not claim to be carrying out research, so the ICJ’s ruling has no immediate consequences for them.

    The ICJ’s ruling is final and there will be no appeal. Japan issued a statement that it would comply with the decision. Fingers crossed…

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