Washington, DC/Santiago, Chile—Responding to the United Nations’ recent decision to award Japan a much coveted non-permanent seat on the Security Council, 65 conservation and animal protection organizations opposed to Japan’s commercial whaling are protesting to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Japan’s recent conduct does not befit such a privilege.
The organizations’ letter to the secretary general describes Japan’s action as “demonstrating a profound lack of good faith that is unacceptable in a nation seeking to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.” It concludes that Japan’s “record in respect of international governance of living marine resources, and of whales in particular, demonstrates that it is not yet ready to assume the responsibility of permanent membership.”
Days before the seat was awarded, Japan exempted itself from “any dispute arising out of, concerning, or relating to research on, or conservation, management or exploitation of, living resources of the sea,” such as tuna and whales, under the jurisdiction of the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). This step, according to the protesting organizations, was clearly taken to avoid further legal challenges to its so-called “research whaling” program in Antarctica. Previously, the ICJ, in response to a lawsuit by Australia and New Zealand in 2014, ordered Japan to revoke its existing research whaling permits and refrain from granting any new permits.
Since the ICJ’s decision, Japan has designed a new research whaling program for the Southern Ocean. Its fleet of whaling ships set sail last week to slaughter up to 333 minke whales—which it plans to do each year for the next 12 years, for a total of nearly 4,000 whales. However, Japan’s killing of whales for unnecessary research or to gather information that could be obtained non-lethally has been repeatedly denounced as unjustified by the majority of members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the international body that regulates whaling and has banned commercial hunting since 1986. IWC members who have denounced the move include Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the Buenos Aires Group—comprised of Latin American and Caribbean countries. Japan’s claim that such killing is justified scientifically has been entirely dismissed by the international scientific community, including a special panel of experts from the Scientific Committee of the IWC.
The conservation and animal protection organizations charge that Japan’s new limits on its acceptance of the ICJ’s jurisdiction are intended to prevent further action against Japan by the ICJ on the whaling case. According to the organizations, the limits would also prevent the ICJ from addressing other disputes over Japan’s controversial and voracious fishing practices.
José Truda Palazzo, a former IWC commissioner from Brazil, said, “Japan’s so-called research is a cover for commercial whaling. Nearly 500 scientists from around the world specializing in non-lethal research and biodiversity conservation recently agreed with this, stating unequivocally that scientific whaling ‘is the result of commercial and political interests’ and ‘seriously undermines science.’”
Susan Millward, executive director of the Animal Welfare Institute, stated, “It is business as usual for Japan as its whaling fleet sets sail yet again, ignoring the international scientific consensus that its whaling is not real research. Now it is also evading the jurisdiction of the world’s highest court and undermining its ability to address Japan’s dubious fishing and whaling practices. The UN should ask itself if this is appropriate conduct for a world leader.”
“Now is the time for governments who oppose the cruel slaughter of whales without any scientific or other justification to unite to send an unequivocal message to Japan that it must stop this barbarity,” said Elsa Cabrera from the Cetacean Conservation Center of Chile. “Such countries must use their influence, within the IWC, at the UN, in other international fora, or bilaterally to ensure that Japan is not allowed to continue to kill whales commercially while hiding behind the veil of science.”
Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.
About the Cetacean Conservation Center of Chile
The Cetacean Conservation Center is a Chilean not for profit, non-governmental organization working actively since 2001 in the conservation of cetacean species and their aquatic ecosystems in Chile and the southern hemisphere. For more information visit www.ccc-chile.org.
Centro de Conservación Cetacea (CCC) es una organización no gubernamental chilena y sin fines de lucro que trabaja activamente desde 2001 en la conservación de las especies de cetáceos y sus ecosistemas acuáticos en Chile y el Hemisferio Sur. Para más información visita www.ccc-chile.org