IFAW: World Court hearing of Japanese whaling case ends with hope of justice for whales

As the International Court of Justice hearing of Australia’s case against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic drew to a close today (Tuesday), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) hopes it will bring an end to so-called scientific whaling and grant better protection for whales.

It may be several months before a ruling from the three-week hearing is announced, but IFAW believes the sham of scientific whaling, commercial whaling by another name, was exposed for all to see during the case.

Independent panels of international legal experts reviewing Japan’s scientific whaling programme have consistently found it ‘unlawful’ under international law* and IFAW trusts that the International Court of Justice hearing will have a similar outcome.

IFAW whale biologist Vassili Papastavrou said: “Australia has presented a watertight case. The International Whaling Commission was put together in order for multilateral decisions to be taken on whale conservation and the management of whaling. Japan has vainly tried to justify its unilateral decision to continue whaling for commercial purposes within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. As I am sure the judges at the International Court of Justice will decide, enough is enough.”

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, added: “We are glad that scientific whaling has been scrutinised by the World Court and shown for what it is, a cruel and outdated practice which produces no science of value. Japan does not need to wait for the official judgment though – we urge it to call an end to its scientific whaling now.”

The Court’s decision will be important not only for whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, but for future compliance with all multilateral environmental agreements.**

Since the global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, Japan has killed more than 14,000 whales in the name of science, the vast majority of these in the Southern Ocean.

Scientific analysis of footage of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean has shown whales taking more than half an hour to die. IFAW works in whaling countries to promote whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative that is better for whales and for coastal communities.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling at IFAW on +44 (0)20 7587 6708, mobile +44 (0)7917 507717, email csterling@ifaw.org or alternatively contact Patrick Ramage on +1 (508) 776 0027.

Notes to editors:

* IFAW has previously convened a series of legal panels (between 2006 and 2009) in response to the escalating scale of scientific whaling by Japan, coupled with the inability of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to address the issue of scientific whaling, in part due to Japan’s tactic of vote-buying at the IWC.

** The ICJ case is not about a contravention to one or a mere handful of provisions of a specific convention, but instead involves a large number of provisions in force through seven international treaties which form an important part of international environmental law. Four international legal panels found that Japanese scientific whaling compromises compliance with a large number of provisions of:

  • The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling;
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea;
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora;
  • The Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources;
  • The Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals;
  • The Environmental Protocol of the Antarctic Treaty.

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.