The United Nations court found the Japanese hunts cannot be justified as part of scientific research.
The landmark case, held in The Hauge, Netherlands, found the number of fin, humpback and minke whales, slaughtered annually by the Japanese program in the Southern Ocean, could not be justified.
“Special permits granted by Japan are not for purposes of scientific research,” the court said.
As such the judges of the UN court voted in favour of an immediate temporary halt to the program 12-4 – casting serious doubts about the long-term future of the controversial hunts
Australian and New Zealand anti-whaling campaigners welcomed the news.
The decision by the 16 judges endorsed previous claims by Australia that Japan was “cloaking commercial whaling in a lab coat of science,” after discovering that Japan was selling the whale meat from the hunts to supermarkets and restaurants.
In a 2010 application to the International Court, Australia also made claims against Japan’s failure to “”observe in good faith the zero catch limit in relation to the killing of whales,” insisting the country had violated Article 8 of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling – having killed 10,000 in Antartica since 1986.
New Zealand supported the stance, backing Australia’s claims during the our-year-legal-battle.
Until now, Japan was permitted to kill a certain number of whales every year for what it called scientific research, under the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling. The annual hunt programme is known as Jarpa II was supposed to assist the ongoing research by Japan to enable future sustainable whale farming.
But a lengthy ruling, handed down by the presiding judge in The Hague, Peter Tomka, found Japan had failed to prove that its pursuit of hundreds of whales in the Antarctic waters every winter was for the benefit of science.
“The evidence does not establish that the programme’s design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives,” Tomka said.
“The court concludes that the special permits granted by Japan for the killing, taking and treating of whales in connection with Jarpa II are not for purposes of scientific research,” he added, ordering Japan to cease its whaling programme “with immediate effect”.
Japan’s delegation spokesperson Noriyuki Shikata, said they were “disappointed” by the International Court’s decision but would abide by it “as a state that places great importance on the international legal order and the rule of law as a basis of the international community.”
“In terms of a future course of action, people in Tokyo will examine that, but we have made our position clear – that we will abide by the judgement,” Shikata told reporters, assuring them that the ruling would not affect bilateral ties with Australia
Patrick Ramage from the International Fund for Welfare Animals said “this is a win for the whales. I was very surprised and delighted, we had hoped for this outcome but we didn’t expect it. This is a very important day.’’
Sea Shepherd Netherlands director Geert Vons agreed. “The highest legal court has condemned the whaling practices and for the first time the Antarctic whales can have a rest,’’ he said adding that the Sea Shepherd activists would be in the Antarctic next season, which starts in December, to monitor the area.