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Whaling has been a long-held tradition in Japanese culture, estimated as starting around the 12th century and primarily hunted for their meat though also utilized for products such as lamp oil, soaps, fertilizer, make up etc However, this method of whaling required significant financial investment from rich individuals to compensate for the large labour force necessary.
Throughout the 20th century, Japan became increasingly involved in the modern whaling industry. As the levels of the whale population depleted considerably, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was formed in 1946 in Washington to provide for the “proper conservation of whale stocks” to ensure the orderly development of the whaling industry. The ICRW, which lead to the creation of the International Whaling Commission and consists of guidelines for the international regulation of coastal and pelagic whaling. Japan joined the IWC in 1951.
As this legislation was enabled, a number of unregulated, or “pirate whaling” operations sprung up in the seas surrounding Japan. There has been much uproar surrounding Japan’s whaling practices, particularly after a 1976 quota for Southern Hemisphere Bryde’s whales was set to zero by the IWC.
Japan proceeded to take 225 of them during the 76–77 season by issuing itself a permit to take whales for scientific research under Article VIII of the ICRW. Following this event, the IWC recommended all future applications of Article VIII be reviewed by the IWC scientific committee.
In recent decades as numbers continue to deplete rapidly and the traditional requirements of the meat, including as a food product, has begun to die out in the more-progressive younger Japanese population. Under sanctions of whaling for “scientific research”, Japan has continued what many believe to be a ruthless and unnecessary slaughter of the species.
In 1976, the quota for Southern Hemisphere Bryde’s whales was set to zero by the IWC. However, Japan proceeded to take 225 of them during the 76–77 season by issuing itself a permit to take whales for scientific research under Article VIII of the ICRW. Following this event, the IWC recommended all future applications of Article VIII be reviewed by the IWC scientific committee
In 2010, Australia sort an order from the International Court of Justice to stop the Japanese whale hunt in a case launched by the Rudd government and passionately pioneered by many prominent ministers, especially Mark Dreyfus and Peter Garrett who both urged strongly for the Rudd government to take on the fight.
Over the last several years since then and despite other anti-whaling nations, including the United State, have warned Australia against going to court and thus subjecting themselves to a torturous diplomatic negotiation process has taken place in a bid to get Japan to phase out its Antarctic hunt which kills hundreds of whales each summer.
Current Prime Minister, then opposition leader Tony Abbott also openly opined that we “don’t want to needlessly antagonise our most important trading partner, a fellow democracy, an ally” with regard to a legal bid to end whaling. Greg Hunt, his environment spokesman at the time, however urged the government to submit court documents.
When the case came to hearing in the Hague last June, it hinged on the court’s view of the IWC convention’s clause letting any member nation conduct its own scientific whaling program, despite a global moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Australian government’s counsel, Bill Campbell, QC, told the 21 judges they had an important opportunity to decide for the world what did, and did not, constitute scientific activity.
“In short, Japan seeks to cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science,” Mr Campbell said. “It simply is not science.”
Japan currently issues its fleet with a scientific permit for a quota of up to 935 minke whales, 50 fin whales and 50 humpbacks, with the humpback quota currently “suspended”.
The decision comes with the whaling fleet under increased pressure from conservationist direct action that brought serious conflict to the far south – much of it in waters off the Australian Antarctic Territory.
However, despite this pressure from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, the whalers killed 10,439 minkes and 15 fin whales under scientific permit from the 1986 moratorium until the end of the 2013 season, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
On the 1st of April this year it was announced that the years of hearings and what many people felt was a pursuit of justice for the whales of the world that a stop has been placed on Japan’s scientific research whaling expeditions.
Japan was ordered to halt its whaling program because the hunt can not be justified for scientific research purposes, in a court ruling that marks the biggest boost to efforts to protect whales the 1986 memorandum.
With such a huge success for animal rights groups as well as the previous Governments efforts, it is vital now that the anti-whaling community of the world keeps surveying Japan’s whaling activities to ensure they adhere to the court demands.