On 31 May 2010 Australia instituted proceedings against Japan at the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Japan’s whaling programme. Australia alleges that Japan’s scientific whaling programme breaches its obligations under international law. According to the Application Instituting Proceedings, Australia argues that:
“Japan’s continued pursuit of a large scale programme of whaling under the Second Phase of its Japanese Whale Research Programme under Special Permit in the Antarctic (“JARPA II”) [is] in breach of obligations assumed by Japan under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (“ICRW”), as well as its other international obligations for the preservation of marine mammals and marine environment”.
Australia argues that the JARPA II programme cannot be justified under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) which allows the killing of whales for the purposes of scientific research. Australia requests the Court to declare that Japan is in breach of its international obligations by implementing the JARPA II programme in the Southern Ocean and to order Japan to cease implementation of the programme.
Australia has been a staunch opponent of whaling the Southern Ocean and has opposed the JARPA II programme. It brought the suit against Japan after the failure of recent diplomatic efforts to end Japan’s whaling programme.
Japan continues to hunt whales under exceptions to the 1986 moratorium by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that allows killings for scientific research. Opponents argue that this is merely a cover for allowing commercial whaling to take place, as Japan places whale meat caught under for scientific purposes on commercial sale. Australia argues that this programme demonstrates “a lack of any demonstrated relevance for the conservation and management of whale stocks” and therefore does not qualify under the exception.