International conservation groups have praised the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to order a halt, temporarily at least, to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.  The Court ordered Monday the immediate revocation of special permits granted to Japanese whalers to kill and gather whales in the name of scientific research.

The International Court of Justice building in the Hague. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

The Court found the Japanese operation in the Southern Ocean not consistent with the provision of the scientific programme under Article 8 of the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. It finds that “the killing, taking and treating of whales under special permits granted for JARPA II is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article 8 and that Japan thus has violated three paragraphs of the Schedule. ”

Australia filed the case against Japan in 2010. On Monday the Court announced its verdict and ordered Japan to immediately  refrain from authorizing or implementing any special permit for whaling which is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article 8. It also ordered Japan to cease with immediate effect the implementation of JARPA II; and to revoke any authorization, permit or licence that allows the implementation of JARPA II.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society USA and Sea Shepherd Australia (SSA) welcomed the decision. Both have directly intervened against Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean. Last week, SSA’s fleet under “Operation Relentless” arrived in Melbourne from the Southern Ocean just in time for the end of another whaling season. It announced the campaign a success in saving at least about 750 whales from the Japanese slaughter.

Sea Shepherd sent representatives to the court listen to the verdict,  including Captain Alex Cornelissen, executive director of Sea Shepherd Global and Geert Vons, director of Sea Shepherd Netherlands. They were also accompanied by Sea Shepherd Global’s Dutch legal counsel.

The ICJ, by 12 votes to four, said Japan hadn’t acted in compliance with its obligations under the international whaling convention. Australia had asked the 16-judge panel to ban Japan’s annual hunt on the basis it was not “for purposes of scientific research” as allowed under the international whaling convention.

Japanese vessel Yushin Maru No. 2, center, sails alongside Sea Shepherds' The Bob Barker, left, in the Southern Ocean off Antarctica. Pic: AP.

In Australia, SSA chairman Bob Brown said  the ICJ findings “vindicate a decade of courageous actions by Captain Paul Watson and his crews.”

“All across Australia people will be celebrating this win due to Sea Shepherd and their huge public support for protecting whales in this country that led to the Australian Government to take this legal action,” Brown said.

“Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott should tell Japan, ‘Never cross the equator again with a whale harpoon gun’,” he added.

Jeff Hansen, SSA managing director said the result “gives further credit to Sea Shepherd for not only upholding Australian Federal laws also International laws in defending the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary for the whales and for future generations.

“In the absence of law enforcement in the Southern Ocean, Sea Shepherd has been the only organisation upholding the law in defence of the International Whale Sanctuary, while Japan has been consistently breaking the law and this ruling now proves that.”