Australia has asked the international court of justice to withdraw all permits for future whale hunts from the Japanese fleet. The Guardian reports
Japan is using scientific research as an excuse to conduct commercial whaling in defiance of an international ban, Australia said on Wednesday at the start of a landmark legal bid to put a permanent end to the annual slaughter of almost 1,000 whales in the Southern Ocean.
Australia, with the support of New Zealand, has asked the International Court of Justice to withdraw all permits for future whale hunts from the Japanese fleet.
The hearings in the Hague will last three weeks and a decision is expected before the end of the year, possibly in time to halt Japan’s next whaling expedition. The decision by the top UN court will be final, as there is no appeals process. Japan is expected to challenge the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, but details of that challenge have yet to be disclosed.
“Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science,” Australia’s agent to the court, Bill Campbell, told the 16-judge panel.
Opponents of Japan’s Antarctic whale hunts say research into theanimals‘ migratory, reproductive and other habits can be conducted without killing them.
Japan, however, claims that lethal research is necessary to acquire the data needed to re-examine the International Whaling Commission’s ban and possibly return to sustainable commercial whaling.
It uses a provision in the IWC’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling to kill more than 900 minke whales every winter, although recent hauls have been far smaller following clashes with the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.
Meat from the Antarctic hunts is sold legally in Japanese shops and restaurants – a practice that campaigners say proves the research hunts are a cover for commercial whaling.
“You don’t kill 935 whales in a year to conduct scientific research. You don’t even need to kill one whale to conduct scientific research,” Campbell told journalists.
Australia’s solicitor-general, Justin Gleeson, told the judges: “No other nation, before or since, has found the need to engage in lethal scientific research on anything like this scale.”
Japan, which will launch its defence next week, insists that it is abiding by the terms of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
“Japan’s research programs have been legally conducted for the purposes of scientific research, in accordance with the [convention],” Japan’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Koji Tsuruoka, said outside the courtroom. “Australia’s claim is invalid. Japan’s research whaling has been conducted for scientific research in accordance with international law.”
Campbell said that if all signatories to the convention killed as many minke whales as Japan does, then more than 83,000 would be slaughtered in the Southern Ocean every year. That would be “catastrophic” for whale populations, he told the court.
Campaigners applauded Australia’s unprecedented legal action, which has been more than three years in the making.
“Japan’s whaling subverts international will to protect these animals from commercial slaughter,” said Kitty Block, vice president of the Humane Society International.
“Whaling under the guise of the scientific exemption to the moratorium is an abuse of rights and a breach of conservation obligations as Japan is a member of the International Whaling Commission.”
Wendy Elliot, of WWF International’s species programme, said: “WWF is fully opposed to so-called scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean, one of the most important areas for whales on this planet, and the site of previous relentless and devastating slaughters, from which most Southern Ocean whales are still far from recovered.”
“WWF commends the Australian government for taking this case to the international court of justice, and hopes that it heralds the end of whaling in the Southern Ocean.”
Australian officials say Japan has killed more than 10,000 whales since the IWC ban went into effect.
Japan is being urged to recall its whaling fleet which has just left port for Antarctic. Wildlife Extra and IFAW report | http://twitter.com/#!/LearnFromNature
|BARBARIC: The Japanese whaling operation|
According to Japanese media reports, the country’s whaling fleet is en route to the pristine Southern Ocean Sanctuary to kill up to 935 minke whales and 50 endangered fin whales, in defiance of global opposition and several international laws.
‘This industry is dying’
Japan is believed to have provided around US$30 million in additional government security budget to protect the fleet this season. Japan hunts whales in the seas surrounding Antarctica under the loophole of “scientific whaling” despite the worldwide ban on commercial whaling.
Robbie Marsland, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW UK) said: ‘We are disappointed although not surprised that Japan’s whaling fleet has once more set sail for Antarctica to slaughter more whales. The reality, though, is that the whaling industry is dying and this is its last gasp. The economics show that whaling is unprofitable and a bad policy for the Japanese people as well as for whales.’
Whales take more than half an hour to die
IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Footage of Japanese whaling analysed by IFAW scientists has shown whales can take more than half an hour to die.
While whaling is uneconomic, whale-watching offers a humane and profitable alternative to the cruelty of whaling, generating around US$2.1 billion annually for coastal communities.
According to recent media reports the Australian Customs ship Ocean Protector, docked in Hobart, may be preparing to sail to the Southern Ocean to monitor the whaling season.
During the last season of Southern Ocean whaling, the Japanese fleet headed back to port early with less than half of its self-allocated catch quota following pressure from many fronts.
- Japan Urged to Recall Whaling Fleet and Abandon Dying Whale Meat Industry (prnewswire.com)
- Tsunami Disaster Funds To Be Used For Whaling? (legalaction4animalrights.net)
- Japan Planning to Kill More Whales in Antarctica (IFAW Reports) (inquisitr.com)
- Japan whaling fleet accused of using tsunami disaster funds (greenactivist.wordpress.com)
- Japan whaling fleet accused of using tsunami disaster funds (guardian.co.uk)
- Japan says some tsunami reconstruction funds going to whaling (cnn.com)
- Watching the Whalers Every Move (wefightforwhales.wordpress.com)
- Japan whalers take Sea Shepherd activists to court – Reuters India (in.reuters.com)
- Annual Japan Whale Hunt Begins with Lawsuits (ibtimes.com)
- New depths for whaling war (smh.com.au)
Antarctic whale hunt won’t be canceled
The annual Antarctic whale hunt will be carried out later this year under heightened security to fend off activists who have vowed to disrupt the cull, the fisheries minister.
The nation’s whale hunts have become increasingly tense in recent years because of clashes with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The most recent expedition was cut short after several high-seas confrontations, and it was unclear if this year’s hunt would come about.
But fisheries minister Michihiko Kano said measures would be taken to ensure the whalers’ safety, and the hunt, expected to begin in December, will go ahead. “We intend to carry out the research (whaling) after enhancing measures to assure that it is not obstructed,” he said.
Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but Japan conducts whale hunts in the Antarctic and Northwest Pacific under an exception that allows limited kills for research purposes.
The government claims the research is needed to provide data on whale populations so the international ban on commercial whaling can be re-examined — and, Japan hopes, lifted — based on scientific studies.
Opponents say the program is a guise for keeping Japan’s dwindling whaling industry alive. Sea Shepherd, which is already rallying to block the hunt, has been particularly dogged in its efforts to stop the kills.
Last year’s season was marred by repeated incidents with Sea Shepherd vessels, one of which sank after a Japanese whaling ship chopped off its bow. The boat’s captain, New Zealander Peter Bethune, was later arrested when he boarded the whaling ship from a jet ski, and brought back to Japan for trial.
He was convicted of assault, vandalism and three other charges and given a suspended prison term. Bethune has since returned to New Zealand.
Sea Shepherd recently announced it is calling its effort to obstruct the December hunt “Operation Divine Wind” — a reference to the kamikaze suicide missions carried out by the Japanese military in World War II.
Though vilified by antiwhaling organizations around the world, the government’s strong prowhaling position has the support of the Japanese public, according to an AP poll conducted in July and August.
Fifty-two percent favor it, 35 percent are neutral and 13 percent are opposed, the poll found.
Once common in school lunches, whale meat can be found in stores and restaurants in Japan. But, because of its relatively high price, it is generally regarded as a gourmet food by the public.
- Japan to Stop Antarctic Whaling? | 80beats (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- ArtsBeat: Animal Planet Starts Filming on ‘Whale Wars’ Spin-off (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Stop the terrorists (lancewiggs.com)
- Pete Bethune’s Criminal Trial Set to Begin in Japan (prweb.com)
- Iceland, Norway, and Japan are brutally killing whales… Philip Radford, Greenpeace (ynative77.wordpress.com)
- Why Japan’s Whale Hunt Continues (time.com)
- What are gray whales used for (wiki.answers.com)
- Japan hunts 195 whales in northwest Pacific Ocean (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Sea Shepherd Investigates Secret Underwater Pilot Whale Graveyard (yubanet.com)
- Travel : Watching Whale in Sydney (socyberty.com)
As the US intelligence analyst Bradley Manning endures his ninth month of solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, it’s highly unlikely that he’s too concerned with the actions of a rogue anti-whaling organisation that’s been labelled as everything from pirates to terrorists.
Yet the confidential diplomatic cables he’s accused of passing onto Wikileaks have shown the abrasive methods employed by the much-criticised Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have exerted far more pressure on the Japanese government than anyone thought possible.
Since its creation in 1977, Sea Shepherd has gone for the jugular of the Japanese whaling fleet by physically preventing them from hunting and hitting where it hurts most: the wallet.
In recent weeks this has been spectacularly successful, with the Japanese suspending all of its whaling operations on 18 February after Sea Shepherd vessels blocked the stern of the Nisshin Maru factory ship, preventing any harpooned whales from being loaded on.
Japan’s foreign minister Seiji Maehara claimed the “harassment” by Sea Shepherd had made it impossible to continue because it was “difficult to ensure the safety of the crew”.
Yet these aggressive methods are nothing new: Sea Shepherd’s Antarctic missions have been characterised by high-speed chases, rammings, boardings, the frequent use of water cannon and, in January 2010, the sinking of the futuristic trimaran the Ady Gil, after it was struck by harpoon ship the Shonan Maru 2.
In February 2010, Japanese fisheries minister Hirotaka Akamatsu also accused the group of throwing butyric acid – made from rancid butter – onto the decks of the whaling ships, mildly injuring three crew members. A claim Sea Shepherd totally dismissed as “rotten butter bomb attacks”, which were “unpleasant but harmless”.Despite this, the organisation’s aggressive approach to the whaling fleet has provoked widespread criticism from other environmental campaign groups, with Greenpeace labelling Sea Shepherd’s tactics as “morally wrong” and “a tactical error”.
A statement on the Greenpeace website adds: “By making it easy to paint anti-whaling forces as dangerous, piratical terrorists, Sea Shepherd could undermine the forces within Japan which could actually bring whaling to an end.”
So is it a case that Sea Shepherd has won the battle, but will ultimately fail to win the hearts and minds of the Japanese and, therefore, the war?A largely overlooked US government transcript posted on the Wikileaks website suggests otherwise.
It reads: “It would be easier for Japan to make progress in the IWC (International Whaling Commission) negotiations if the US were to take action against the Sea Shepherd.”
The exposed material adds that Japan’s vice-minister for international affairs at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Shuji Yamada, asked Monica Medina, the US Commissioner to the IWC, to look into Sea Shepherd’s tax exempt status in return for a deal that would see Japan reduce its “scientific” whale catch in Antarctica.
“Yamada inquired about an investigation into the tax status of the US-based NGO Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and repeated Japan’s request for the US to take action against the organisation,” adds another entry.
In a later document, it emerges that Medina considered this proposal, stating that the US government could “demonstrate the group does not deserve tax exempt status based on their aggressive and harmful actions.”
The leaked files were exchanged ahead of a crucial IWC meeting held in June 2010. If the talks had run favourably for Japan, it would have enabled whalers to focus on Japanese waters rather than the Antarctic.
Unfortunately for them, the negotiations were scuppered by the European Union, Australia and a string of South American countries, who rejected all of the proposals. But what these cables show conclusively is, regardless of the moral ambiguities surrounding their tactics, Sea Shepherd’s abrasive approach towards the whalers is working behind closed doors. Otherwise, the Japanese would not have asked the Americans to cut off their financial bloodline.
“Our objective in opposing the whaling fleet is to sink them economically – to bankrupt them,” says Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson.
“Every year they are coming down weaker. So they are becoming increasingly frustrated and angry. A lot of the bureaucrats have taken it quite personally, I think.”Watson insists that Sea Shepherd hasn’t heard from the US tax office since the cables were swapped in November 2009. He also maintains it has passed two audits in the last 10 years, so the US government has no cause to audit again.
Yet the question remains: are Sea Shepherd’s methods justified? After all, while nobody has been killed through its actions, it does push the limits of what is acceptable and legal to the extreme.
At the same time Greenpeace and an array of other environmental protest groups have been involved in countless examples of direct action over the years without resorting to anything more dangerous than the occupation of a building or the careful shutting down of an electricity plant. So just where do you draw the line?“What’s acceptable, proportionate and reasonable is highly subjective,” explains Greenpeace spokesperson Ben Stewart.
“Greenpeace adheres to a policy of non-violence. So there is a very obvious line that is never crossed when it comes to the prospect of committing violence against people or even buildings.
“I’ve lopped off a few padlocks in my time and that doesn’t greatly trouble my conscience. But my conscience would be greatly troubled if I, or anyone I was acting with, was violent towards another person.”
Neil Kingsnorth, head of activism at Friends of the Earth, agrees: “If something is non-violent and illegal, then in theory, it is a perfectly legitimate form of protest.
“It all depends on what the action is. In theory you can behave outside the law to challenge a greater injustice, but even then the key principle is that it is a non-violent approach.”
This is also a philosophy that has been adopted by burgeoning grassroots environmental campaigns such as Plane Stupid and Climate Camp, whose approaches mix non-violence with carefully-conceived incidences of civil disobedience.
Barney Francis, a Plane Stupid activist who last week received a two-year conditional discharge for entering Manchester Airport to help form a human chain around the nose of a Monarch Airlines plane, explains: “If you consider yourself a responsible citizen, then civil disobedience is sometimes your duty.“But it has got to be appropriate and carefully thought out.
“Being considerate of others, we wore high-visibility jackets, made ourselves known to airport workers by waving to them as we passed and, as soon as a patrol came over, we immediately stated that it was a non-violent protest and we were not terrorists.”
In Plane Stupid’s case, the direct action was a last resort, as the group had already exhausted all other democratic channels in its desire to protect some Grade 2 listed cottages and a patch of mature woodland from being destroyed in the expansion of Manchester Airport’s freight terminal. But by being confrontational and poking around the edges of appropriate action, it successfully drew public attention to its cause and escaped a serious reprimand from authorities.
“If you consider the implications of your actions and make an informed decision then the ends do justify the means,” adds Francis.Crucially, it has to be understood that Sea Shepherd comes from an entirely different perspective to this, with Watson labelling it as an “anti-poaching organisation” who’s “only responsibility is to its clients – the whales”. Sea Shepherd is also happy to operate tight against the boundary that separates the legal from the illegal, giving it a degree of unorthodox unpredictability that the Japanese government simply cannot deal with.
In many ways it is this, rather than its propensity for aggressive non-violence, that is Sea Shepherd’s trump card, as it means it is always one step ahead of the slow-moving Japanese bureaucracy, particularly as they are simultaneously having to deal with the other forms of anti-whaling protest.
“Sea Shepherd in not going out there to beat up or hurt the Japanese whalers; it is guided by a compassion for the natural environment and for the whales,” explains Climate Camp activist Dan Glass.
“But because it has love for biodiversity across all species, it has become more militant towards those who are destroying what it loves.
“In any form of protest you need to use a variety of different methods: where you had the suffragists, you had suffragettes; where you had Martin Luther King, you had Malcolm X; and where you have Friends of the Earth you have Sea Shepherd.”
Japan is inviting pro-whaling nations to a meeting aimed at building support for lifting a decades-old ban on commercial whale hunts, the country’s fisheries agency said today.
After failing to get the ban lifted at this year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission, Japan is hoping about 40 pro-whaling nations will attend the event it plans in the southern port of Shimonoseki — a traditional whaling hub — in November.
The meeting is intended to build solidarity among pro-whaling nations in support of “sustainable use” and to strengthen the lobby against the ban on commercial whaling in place since 1986, the fisheries agency said in a statement.
Japan has long been one of the strongest opponents of the ban and lobbied at the IWC meeting in June for the moratorium to be suspended for 10 years.
That effort failed amid intense opposition from anti-whaling members and environmental groups who wanted whaling nations to agree to gradually phase out all catches.
Japan, Norway and Iceland harvest whales annually under the ban’s various exemptions. Norway’s IWC commissioner, Karsten Klepsvik, said the zero-catch demand was “an impossible situation.”
Conservation groups estimate 1.5 million whales were killed in the 20th century.
Friction within the IWC has led Japan to repeatedly threaten to quit the body, which Japan says ignores scientific data suggesting that limited takes of some more plentiful whale species would cause no significant threat to their populations.
Japan hunts whales along its coastal waters and in the Antarctic under the research exemption to the ban. Critics say the scientific hunts are a cover for commercial whaling because the meat gleaned from the killed whales often ends up in restaurants or stores.
Opponents of Japan’s whaling policy also allege the country has used its economic clout to unjustly woo votes in the IWC from countries that have no real stake in whaling. Japan has strongly denied that claim.