Public Statement in Defense of Whales, the Principles of Scientific Research and Peace in Antarctic
In relation to the historical ruling the International Court of Justice will deliver on March 31, 2014 in the case Australia vs. Japan on “scientific” whaling in Antarctica, the people of the world who adhere to this statement affirm that :
1. The so-called “scientific” whaling program conducted by the government of Japan is only a cover for commercial whaling operations that violate the global moratorium. This is demonstrated by the commercial scale of the catch quotas, which are set by factors other than scientific research such as the capacity of the Japanese whaling fleet to process meat and whale products.
2. “Scientific whaling” operations conducted by Japan in Antarctica also infringes the integrity of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary that provides protection for all species of cetaceans independent of their conservation status. The sanctuary was created in 1994 with the support of all members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) except Japan.
3. “Scientific whaling” is an exceptional measure under the IWC, aimed at answering fundamental questions regarding the conservation and management of whale populations when no other research methodologies are available. Although today there are many non-lethal research alternatives, Japan has removed more than 14,000 whales from the Southern Ocean Sanctuary without generating any scientific information to answer these questions.
4. Japan’s “scientific whaling” program does not meet the minimum standards to be considered a scientific research program. It is limited to the random lethal sampling of whales without a hypothesis to establish clear goals and define appropriate procedures to assess their compliance.
5. The Delegation of Japan at the International Court of Justice was unable to explain how “scientific whaling” quotas are calculated. The only witness presented by the government of Japan declared he ignored this procedure. Also, he strongly criticized the inclusion of humpback and fin whales and affirmed that such permits should not exceed a quota of 10 whales per year. This aspect should be enough for the Court to dictate the immediate cessation of whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.
6. The ultimate goal of the government of Japan and the Japanese whaling industry is the resumption of commercial whaling operations at an industrial scale in the Southern Ocean, an area that has special mechanisms for protecting marine biodiversity under the Antarctic Treaty and the IWC.
7. A ruling in favor of Japan would mean de facto elimination of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, which would represent a dangerous precedent for the gradual decline of existing marine conservation measures in Antarctica as well as the etchical principles of scientific reasearch programs.
8. Since the government of Japan believes that no State or organization may interfere with the issuance of “scientific” whaling permits, a favorable ruling by the Court to that country would set a serious precedent, as it would allow any member of the IWC to grant itself “scientific whaling” quotas without any supervision or control, even for endangered species.
9. The control system of the International Whaling Commission (IWC ) is collective , meaning it requires the cooperation of all its members to meet its objective of conserving whale populations. A country cannot unilaterally act independently of the provisions of the IWC, as the government Japan seeks to legitimize in the International Court of Justice.
The International Court of Justice has the historic and enormous responsibility of defining what constitutes real scientific research activities. This is the first time the Court address a dispute related to the conservation of biodiversity. Therefore the verdict of the court will have profound implications for international environmental law, marine governance, development of scientific research programs and the future of thousands of whales and other marine life.
For these reasons and as citizens concerned with the alarming loss of biodiversity and the destruction of marine ecosystems, we make an urgent call to the International Court of Justice to defend marine life, the ethical principles of scientific research and the bases of marine governance to safeguard peace, international cooperation and conservation of biodiversity in such a special and unique territory as Antarctica.