International Court of Justice releases important decision on whaling

4 Apr 14

On 31 March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued its decision that Japan’s taking of whales in the Antarctic Southern Ocean is not for the purposes of scientific research and it must stop all whaling with immediate effect. While the decision was not unanimous (12 votes to 4), it is nonetheless a milestone in the long running debate about the taking of whales for ‘scientific purposes’.

The application to the ICJ was taken by Australia and supported by New Zealand. A summary of the ICJ’s decision and the various comments by judges can be found here.

The ruling may not necessarily be the end of whaling in the Antarctic Southern Ocean, as Japan may now try to devise a new programme. In that regard, New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully stated “Our task is to carry out a diplomatic conversation that dissuades them from embarking on that course.”

While the ruling only applies to whaling in the Antarctic Southern Ocean, the case is likely to be seen as a precedent for similar ‘scientific’ whaling activities in other parts of the world.

A statement on the ICJ’s decision, issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with specialist expertise on endangered species, can be found here.

For further information please contact Mark Christensen, a partner in the Natural Resources team. Mark is a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Environmental Law.