I’ve got a few journalists I correspond with in Japan, and I had an interesting conversation with one of them last night. He claimed their whaling fleet has already caught their 333 minke whales for this year, making it 2 seasons in a row Japan has taken their quota of whales from the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. It highlights again how difficult it is to stop a well-resourced nation like Japan that is intent on flouting international law.
Japan lost it’s whaling case in the International Court of Justice to Australia and New Zealand in 2014. The court agreed with the plaintiffs, that Japan’s whaling lacked scientific merit, and was essentially a commercial whaling program.
Following the ruling, Japan skipped the 2015 season, but then introduced a new scientific program (NEWREP-A) with a quota reduced from 1,000 down to 333 whales, and amid claims it had addressed the issue of scientific merit. The program of course was widely denounced by anti-whaling nations, however Japan persevered, and for the second year running now, have returned to Antarctica to hunt animals despite their lack of legitimacy.
Both New Zealand and Australia have the capability to easily locate the whaling fleet and enforce the international court ruling, however the question remains why are their respective Governments so reluctant to make such an escalation. There are several possible reasons. Under the “Treaty of Antarctica”, of which all 3 nations are signatories, military vessels may not venture in Antarctic waters unless on SAR or Humanitarian missions. Enforcing a whaling ban could hardly be deemed either.
If you are considering the law however, Japan’s behavior is appalling. Not only are they flouting the International Court of Justice ruling, they are in breach of many other laws and treaties. As examples, they regularly refuel below 60 degrees South, in breach of the Treaty of Antarctica. They discard hundreds of tons of offal from the butchered whales, again in breach of the Antarctica Treaty. The whaling program also breaches numerous International Whaling Commission resolutions that have condemned Japan’s whaling program.
Despite all this, the Australian and New Zealand governments continue to decry the whaling program but offer little in the way of resistance. They could send a patrol vessel down but refuse to do so. They could take Japan back to the International Court of Justice but refuse to do so. In ignoring their responsibility, the only resistance Japan faces in Antarctica is the Animal Rights Group “Sea Shepherd”, however without military backing their surveillance options are limited. A month ago they did spot the Nissin Maru processing ship but have thus far failed to intercept it on the water. This has seen Japan’s illegal whaling program continue through the summer and according to the Journalist in Japan, they are about to head back home with their full quota of 333 whales.
The question then is just what will it take to stop Japan?