The Whale Wars Are Over

….for now, anyway.

This morning, the International Court of Justice ruled in Australia’s favor in a suit against Japan’s “scientific” whaling program in the Antarctic. The judgment:

Taken as a whole, the Court considers that JARPA II involves activities that can broadly be characterized as scientific research (see paragraph 127 above), but that the evidence does not establish that the programme’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives. The Court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with JARPA II are not “for purposes of scientific research” pursuant to Article VIII, paragraph 1, of the Convention.


The Court eviscerated Japan’s research methodology:

225. First, the broad objectives of JARPA [Japan’s original Antarctic whaling program] and JARPA II [the current program, which is ruled not scientific] overlap considerably. To the extent that the objectives are different, the evidence does not reveal how those differences lead to the considerable increase in the scale of lethal sampling in the JARPA II Research Plan. Secondly, the sample sizes for fin and humpback whales are too small to provide the information that is necessary to pursue the JARPA II research objectives based on Japan’s own calculations, and the programme’s design appears to prevent random sampling of fin whales. Thirdly, the process used to determine the sample size for minke whales lacks transparency, as the experts called by each of the Parties agreed. In particular, the Court notes the absence of complete explanations in the JARPA II Research Plan for the underlying decisions that led to setting the sample size at 850 minke whales (plus or minus 10 per cent) each year. Fourthly, some evidence suggests that the programme could have been adjusted to achieve a far smaller sample size, and Japan does not explain why this was not done. The evidence before the Court further suggests that little attention was given to the possibility of using non-lethal research methods more extensively to achieve the JARPA II objectives and that funding considerations, rather than strictly scientific criteria, played a role in the programme’s design.

Jonathan Adler suspects that Japan will attempt to return with a smaller program:

Even if Japan complies, however, this may not mean an end to whaling. Insofar as the judgment was heavily dependent upon the details of how Japan conducts whaling now, it is possible that more carefully controlled could pass muster — and I would not be surprised to see Japan try.

This is a bit of a bittersweet moment for me. On one hand, the whaling program is obviously meant to assert Japan’s will more than to learn anything from research. Previous reporting intimated that the “scientific” program was meant pave a political path to resumption of commercial whaling (despite the fact that demand for whale meat is in the dirt), and of course to protect fragile egos:

Pro-whaling politicians had taken control, he said. It had become an expression of male pride: ”We can’t give in to the likes of Sea Shepherd.”

So the world is better off with the program shut down.

On the other hand, it means the end of the best show ever. A somber moment indeed.

Previous commentary on the whaling program and Whale Wars here.

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