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Science Media Centre


‘Scientific whaling’ decision – experts respond

Posted in In the News

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has voted in favour of a resolution restricting Japan’s scientific whaling program, but a representative of the country says they will proceed anyway.

File:Japan Factory Ship Nisshin Maru Whaling Mother and Calf.jpg

Credit: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

At a four day meeting in Slovenia, the commission voted in favour of a resolution put forward by New Zealand to impose limits on future scientific whaling permits, requiring non-lethal alternatives to be considered for any approved scientific research on whales.

The resolution was voted through with 35 countries for and 20 against, with five abstentions.

Previously Australia, with the support of New Zealand, took Japan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), claiming their whaling program was not scientific and therefore illegal. In March, the ICJ ruled that the program was not scientific. These rulings were submitted alongside the resolution to the IWC.

Following the commission’s vote yesterday, Japan announced that it will be proceeding with a new programme, starting in 2015, without the commission’s approval.

“We will be providing and submitting a new research plan in the Antarctic Ocean so that we implement research activities starting from 2015,” said Joji Morishita, head of Japan’s delegation, speaking to the Associated Press. “And all these activities are perfectly in accordance with international law, scientific basis as well as the ICJ judgment.”

“We are disappointed with their announcement,” Gerard Van Bohemen, the leader of the New Zealand delegation told the Guardian. “We thought it important that there was a strong statement agreed about the interpretation and application of the court’s decision but in the end it wasn’t possible to reach consensus on that.”

You can read more about the decision in national and international coverage:

Radio New Zealand: Whaling meeting puts pressure on Japan
The Guardian: Japan defies IWC ruling on ‘scientific whaling’
Epoch times (Associated Press): International Whaling Commission Votes Against Japan’s Hunt
Yahoo News: Japan Vows to Continue Scientific Whaling Despite IWC Vote for Tighter Sanctions
Sydney Morning Herald: Japan rejects Australian, NZ, attempt to rein in whale hunt
National Geographic: Japan to Resume Whaling Next Year, Defying International Whaling Commission
ABC Radio: Japan announces plan to restart whaling in Southern Ocean

The SMC collected the following expert commentary. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476;

Dr Rochelle Constantine, Director, Joint Graduate School in Coastal and Marine Science, University of Auckland, comments:

“It is disappointing but not surprising that Japan has announced its intention to resume lethal whale research activities in the Southern Ocean and to not agree with a proposal to evaluate their research programme by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) scientific committee.

“Whilst the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling was clear about the short-comings of the JARPAII research programme, the Japanese government has chosen to interpret the ICJ findings in a different way.

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