It is a major turning point in the long struggle to end the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled that the Japanese whaling operations in Antarctic waters are not in accordance with the three provisions of the schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
The court ordered that Japan may not issue any further permits to kill whales in the Southern Ocean.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been insisting for more than a decade that Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary is illegal. The ICJ has vindicated our position.
“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” pursuant to Article VIII, paragraph one, of the Convention.
“It follows that Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (e) in each of the years in which it has granted permits for JARPA II (2005 to the present) because those permits have set catch limits higher than zero”.
“The Convention defines a ‘factory ship’ as a ship “in which or on which whales are treated either wholly or in part” and defines a ‘whale catcher’ as a ship “used for the purpose of hunting, taking, towing, holding on to, or scouting for whales.” The vessel Nisshin Maru, which has been used in JARPA II, is a factory ship, and other JARPA II vessels have served as whale catchers. As stated above, the Court considers that all whaling that does not fit within Article VIII of the Convention (other than aboriginal subsistence whaling) is subject to paragraph 10 (d) of the Schedule. It follows that Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (d) in each of the seasons during which fin whales were taken, killed and treated in JARPA II.
The Court considers that all whaling that does not fit within Article VIII of the Convention (other than aboriginal subsistence whaling) is subject to paragraph seven (b) of the Schedule. It follows that Japan has not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph seven (b) in each of the seasons of JARPA II during which fin whales have been taken.”
We have been opposing the Japanese whaling fleets in the Southern Ocean since 2002 and we have undertaken ten campaigns with numerous ships and more than a thousand volunteers to non-violently intervene against what we have always insisted is illegal whaling.
Japan filed suit against Sea Shepherd USA in the U.S. courts and had Sea Shepherd and myself charged with numerous counts of contempt for which we were found not guilty. Japanese whalers destroyed a Sea Shepherd vessel and injured numerous Sea Shepherd crew-members. And they managed to place my name on the Interpol Red List to prevent my traveling in an attempt to shut down Sea Shepherd operations. I became the first person in history to have an extradition request issued on the charge of trespassing. But such has been their economic and political clout.
Today however their political and economic strong arming did not prevail and the ICJ has ruled strongly against their unlawful and very unscientific operations in the Southern Oceans.
What does that mean for Sea Shepherd?
The Sea Shepherd fleet, having just returned from yet another successful intervention against the whalers, will prepare to return in December 2014 if Japan chooses to ignore the ICJ ruling.
We will return if need be, armed with a greater moral authority to intervene than ever before and we will physically shut them down once again.
And if the whalers decide at long last to abide with the law, Sea Shepherd will turn our attention to the North Atlantic, to Iceland, Norway and the Danish Protectorate of the Faeroe Islands.
Our mission is to shut down illegal whaling operations worldwide.
I have been fighting outlaw whalers all my life and when I look back over the last 40 years, it is with a smile I recall all the victories and the tens of thousands of whales we have saved from the horrific harpoons.
My lifelong objective has been to eradicate the abomination of whaling.
Thanks to the ruling by the International Court of Justice, we are almost there.
Paul Watson is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.