Sunday 20 April 2014

What next for Japan now the ICJ has shut down JARPA II?

Speculation still surrounds Japan’s longer-term intentions following the ruling in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that the Japanese Government’s Antarctic whaling program, JARPA II, is illegal. Japan was ordered to revoke the Antarctic “scientific whaling” permits issued to its whaling feet and refrain from issuing further JARPA II permits.

Japan has declared that it will abide by the decision but has not gone so far as to state that it will abandon all future whaling in the Antarctic. The fisheries industry, which includes whaling, is as strong a political force in Japan as the mining industry is in Australia and it is likely that lobbying began with the ICJ announcement and has continued since.

One possibility is that Japan might endeavour to legitimise its Antarctic whaling program by dressing up its shabby “scientific” image. It should not be forgotten that the rules under which the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was established include a loophole that allows a member nation to issue itself a permit to take whales for genuine scientific reasons. This even applies during an IWC ban on commercial whaling, as is the case today. What caught Japan out was the “genuine” part.

So, Japan could try to come up with a new improved Antarctic scientific whaling product and try to market it to the IWC. Under the rules they do not need the IWC’s permission to reissue scientific permits, but by gaining the endorsement of the Commission, or its Scientific Committee, they might avoid the ire of the ICJ.

Doing so would be a cynical endeavour; it will clearly be a case of trying to make the science fit their commercial intentions. Again.

Another option for Japan, though less likely, would be to leave the IWC altogether, and just go commercial whaling. Then, unbound by the need to be seen to abide by IWC rules or its moratorium, they would not even need to maintain any scientific pretence. Hopefully, Japan’s desire to be seen as a cooperative member of the international community will prevent it from taking this step – even though it has threatened to do so in the past.

Whatever plans it might be hatching to send its whalers back to the Antarctic, Japan will undoubtedly push even more strongly now to have the IWC’s commercial whaling moratorium overturned.  All Japan and its principle allies Iceland and Norway need is to secure a three-quarters majority vote and the moratorium will come to an end.

Then, like some terrible cobweb covered machine in a cheap horror movie, the IWC’s number-crunching machinery will be brought back to life and the scourge of commercial whaling quotas will once more be among us.


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