Posted on: April 1, 2014

Pacific Whale Foundation Celebrates International Court of Justice Ruling that Ends Japan's Scientific Whaling Program in the Antarctic Ocean

Calling it a "significant victory in the fight to end whaling," Pacific Whale Foundation is lauding the International Court of Justice's ruling on Monday, March 31, 2014 that Japan’s “scientific whaling” program in the Antarctic Ocean violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

"We are thrilled that the Court has ordered Japan to immediately cease its scientific whaling program in the Antarctic Ocean," said Lauren Campbell, Conservation Manager at Pacific Whale Foundation.

The International Court ruling resulted from a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Australia against Japan’s scientific whaling program based in the Antarctic Ocean. Japan's Antarctic Ocean hunt was targeting minke whales, the second smallest whale species. Australia claimed that Japan was using scientific whaling to conceal its commercial whaling operations. In a 12-4 vote, the International Court of Justice sided with Australia’s claim, noting that since 2005, Japan’s “research” program has produced only two peer reviewed scientific papers.
Rulings by the International Court of Justice are binding and cannot be repealed.  Japan has, furthermore, publicly announced that it would abide by the ruling and would stop its whaling program in Antarctic waters.

"Since the 'save the whales' movement first gained notable traction in the 1970s, environmentalists, scientists and concerned citizens alike have rallied against the needless killing of whales," says Campbell. "The Court’s ruling thus represents an important milestone in the fight to protect whale populations worldwide, and is the first time that an international court has ruled some of Japan’s whaling operations to be illegal and in violation of the commercial whaling moratorium."

The international moratorium on commercial whaling went into effect in 1986, following the precipitous decline in whale populations around the world during the mid 1900s.Under the moratorium, whaling was legal only under a scientific research permit or with an aboriginal/subsistence whaling permit.

"Despite the moratorium, nearly 50,000 whales have been slaughtered in the past 27 years," said Campbell. "Whaling under scientific permit has been responsible for over 15,000 of those deaths, and Japan’s scientific program in particular accounts for an estimated 75% of the whales taken under scientific permit."

While Pacific Whale Foundation celebrates the ruling, the organization also notes that the ruling applies only to Japan’s whaling program in the Antarctic Ocean.  In addition to the Antarctic, Japan conducts “scientific” whale hunts the North Pacific and commercial whaling in its territorial waters. The ruling also does not apply to small cetaceans and does not address the issue of Japan’s dolphin drives.

"In addition, the door is left open for Japan to launch a new scientific hunt in the Antarctic," remarks Campbell. "If Japan can develop a program that meets the demands of a legitimate scientific study or provide basis for its catch quotas, there is the possibility that Antarctic hunts could resume."

"However any hunts by Japan in the Antarctic will face intense scrutiny," she notes.

Campbell also points out that Iceland and Norway continue to hunt whales. " Iceland and Norway both defy the moratorium on commercial whaling and continue to hunt minke whales commercially," she explains. "Iceland also hunts fin whales commercially."

On average, Norway kills an estimated 500 minke whales in the North Atlantic each year, while Iceland takes about 100 fin whales and 50 minke whales.

Pacific Whale Foundation's staff makes the point that whaling is not the biggest threat to whales.

"Ocean pollution, underwater noise, ship strikes, climate change, oil spills, entanglement and changes in prey populations are just a few of the many threats that whales face," says Greg Kaufman, Founder and Executive Director of Pacific Whale Foundation, and a member of the International Whaling Commission's Scientific Commitee.

"Whaling, however, is currently the most visible and well-known threat, and the Court ruling thus represents a major victory for the ocean conservation community," he notes.

"We appreciate everyone’s hard work and support with Pacific Whale Foundation’s Stop Whaling campaign and other campaigns against whaling, and although there is still much to be done with regards to saving the whales, we are pleased to witness this important and historical step," says Kaufman.

Pacific Whale Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting whales and our oceans through science and advocacy. To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation, please visit


Read more:

International Court of Justice: Australia vs. Japan Judgment

Summary of the Judgment

International Court of Justice Press Release