A win for whales

In a win for the whales, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has voted 12 to 4 to declare Japan’s whaling program ‘unscientific’, which means, for the time being at least, these magnificent creatures will be free to roam their natural habitat unthreatened.

The action against Japan’s whaling program was commenced by the (first) Rudd Government’s Minister Peter Garrett, encouraging the Labor Cabinet to make application in the international court against Japan’s program in 2010. The former Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, visited (in a rare moment of bi-partisanship) The Hague to personally argue Australia’s case. And it was an Australian case as, all major political parties agreed, that the whaling had to stop.

Described as commercial fishing, cloaked in a scientific lab coat, the whaling in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean had been undertaken for more than a decade. Activist organisation Sea Shepherd made headlines during this time, with daring interventions, most recently aboard the ship the Steve Irwin. But the fight is not over for Sea Shepherd, with founder Paul Watson declaring Iceland and Norway guilty of breaches of the international whaling regulations and targets for future protests.

Japan’s representative at the ICJ declared that his country would ‘abide by the decision of the court.’

Opinion: Whales: one; Japan: none

Whichever way we look at it, this is great news – and really BIG news. Too often the petty politics of men and women colour our thinking and crowd our days. Yesterday, for a change, a more important issue took over the headlines. Whales: one, Japan: none. This is important for many reasons, but most particularly it is a victory for our beleaguered environment. Too often the wins go in the other direction. So why do I care? This campaign and the subsequent victory in the ICJ represents the culmination of forty years of hard work by ordinary people like you and me. Yes, the ruling has been made in the global ‘high court’, argued by barristers and solicitors and politicians. But the movement to save the whale began with concern of ordinary citizens many of whom were moved by Scott McVay’s article in Scientific American, “The Last of the Great Whales” in 1966.

The concern expressed by McVay was amplified around the world, and through the ensuing decades, by conservationists, journalists, researchers, activists and yes, more ordinary people like you and I.

So confirmation of the overreach of Japan’s whaling ‘research’ is now recorded in the highest international court and it has been told, in no uncertain terms, to stop. No appeals may be brought against this ruling. It is pleasing to hear the representative of the Japanese Government say that, although “deeply disappointed”, the Government plans to abide by the ruling.

A win for whales is a win for every living creature. Sea Shepherd is right to turn its attention to other areas where these magnificent creatures are threatened. It’s up to all of us to spread the word. The fight goes on.

What do you think? Is this a great victory for all concerned? Or do you think the Japanese whalers should be allowed to continue their program in the southern seas?

Written by Kaye Fallick