July 8, 2013

Australia Takes Japan to International Court

Defending self-purported research in the Antarctic, Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Koji Tsuruoka, argued against Australian claims in an international court that their often lethal whale expeditions amount to nothing more than exempted commercial whaling.

Japan granted itself a special scientific permit to conduct annual hunts for minke and fin whales in the Southern Ocean. The country claims that the research aids in collecting data that would enable whaling to be executed in a sustainable manner and that they are following international laws.

Antarctic waters have been protected by a whaling moratorium for nearly 30 years and Australia, backed by New Zealand and Green Peace, is pushing for a permanent ban. The official actions made in this case will decide the legality of Japan’s whale hunts.

Australia banned whaling in its own waters in 1979. Tsuruoka argued that Australia should not be able to impose its beliefs on other countries nor change the rules of the International Whaling Commission.  

After decades of targeted hunts, whale populations around the globe plummeted, particularly in the Antarctic. According James Crawford, the Australian lawyer arguing for a ban before the International Court of Justice, Japan has “killed more than 10,000 whales” while doing their research. 

According to the International Whaling Commission’s latest status of whales, fin whales have “not recovered to unexploited levels” and Antarctic minke whales have shown an “appreciable decline in abundance.” 


  1. Yes, Japan killed more than 10,000 minke whales as natural resources. Thereby, IWC found that the number of minke whales has not been decreased. This observation is a part of solid scientific evidence that commenrtial hunting <1000 minke whales per year can be done in a sustainable fashion. Scientific research has been done, in my opinion. Conversely, such science is perceived as unnecessary by most of Australian people.

    Most of Japanese people do not see whales as most Australian do. Japanese see them as natural resources, while Australian as sacred animals who should not be killed. Yet, such cultural or moral perspective cannot be forced to another contry, in my opinion. Indian people see cows as sacred animals, but Australian kill more than >10,000 per year.

    1. Thank you for your comments. This is certainly a controversial issue where cultural values are colliding in the court. I added a link to Japan's findings and methods in the first paragraph to help readers come to their own conclusions. Once again, I appreciate your feedback.

  2. Please note that "appreciable decline in abundance of minke whales" was based on unrealistic assumption as shown below (MARK V. BRAVINGTON AND SHARON L HEDLEY; http://www.countingwhales.co.uk/PDF/splintr.pdf)

    Using the IDCR/SOWER data and conventional line transect estimation (e.g. Buckland et al., 2001), estimates from Branch (2006)
    suggest that an appreciable decline in estimates of Antarctic minke whale abundance has been observed, from 786,000 (CV=0.094)
    from CP2 to 338,000 (CV = 0.079). These estimates, however, rely on the unrealistic assumption that all minke whale schools seen on
    the trackline were detected with certainty (i.e. g(0) = 1, where g(y) is the probability of detection at perpendicular distance y).

    1. According to the IWC, "Commercial exploitation of Antarctic minke whales (the smallest of the large whales) began in the early 1970s, much later than the other large whale species. There are several hundred thousand Antarctic minke whales and thus they are clearly not endangered. However, there has been an appreciable decline in their estimated abundance between the multi-year circumpolar surveys conducted between 1982/83-1988/89 and 1991/92-2003/04. Present estimates of total Antarctic abundance range from around 460,000 – 690,000 (two methods); work continues to determine a final estimate and to determine whether the appreciable decline represents a real decline in abundance, changes in survey methods, changes in the number of animals available to be sighted due to presence within the ice or some combination of these."

      Data for whales in the region is still a work in progress, for sure.

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