Warning: Second link contains an image of a dead whale.
In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling but this did not prevent countries from hunting whales. Indeed, a few countries dropped out of the IWC or simply “opted out” of the ban in order to continue killing whales for profit. The 1986 ban also offered exceptions for aboriginal people, such as those in Alaska, to continue their traditional whale hunts and for the killing of whales in the name of science. Japan has infamously made use of the scientific research exception, killing hundreds of whales every year, including endangered species.
Australia filed suit against Japan for its whale killing in the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. This week, the court agreed with Australia that Japan’s whale killings do not appear to be scientific in nature, citing:
- Japan could use non-lethal methods to collect the data it purportedly seeks.
- The sample sizes are not justified.
- There is no time-frame for the research to be concluded.
- Japan doesn’t talk whale science with other whale scientists.
- Very little scientific output has been produced as a result of the mass slaughter.
The UN Court determined Japan’s science was not so sciencey and ordered the country to stop hunting Antarctic whales. Japan says it will comply with the order but Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who regularly eats
science whale meat, vowed to “closely examine the ruling and swiftly figure out ways to continue whaling” which doesn’t exactly scream Compliance so much as it does Sinister Scheming 2.0. The ag minister seems very enthusiastic about continued killings, apparently because science must not be thwarted whale meat is ALL THE DELICIOUS.
There do not appear to be any meaningful repercussions if Japan decides not to comply with the order or comes up with some new loophole to exploit. And the order only applies to large whales, meaning that Japan’s slaughter of dolphins and small whales in Taiji Cove will continue. But the ruling is significant in that it calls out fake science (more, please) and puts additional international pressure on Japan to stop the killing, for what it’s worth.
By the way Australia, next time we run into each other I’ll be giving you a long hug, past the point of awkwardness and bordering on creepy.