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To Whale or Not to Whale

The Japanese Foreign Ministry says Japan will abide by the verdict but the Japanese Ministry of Fisheries wants the “research” program to continue. The Institute for Cetacean Research, a government owned entity is saying that the Japanese whaling fleet will return to the Southern Ocean in 2015/2016.

The ICR will be petitioning a U.S. Federal Court in Seattle this week to request a permanent injunction against Sea Shepherd USA to prevent Sea Shepherd interventions against their illegal whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

It is a move that makes little sense considering that Sea Shepherd USA withdrew from the Southern Ocean because of the temporary injunction granted to the whalers in December 2012.

However the ICR is now requesting that the U.S. Federal Court order Sea Shepherd Australia to abide by the injunction despite the fact that the U.S. Federal Courts have no jurisdiction over the activities of Sea Shepherd Australia.

Sea Shepherd USA has fully complied with the temporary injunction and will of course comply with a permanent injunction if issued.

In their submission to the U.S. Court the ICR states that they fully intend to return to the Southern Ocean for the 2015/2016 season. They expect the court to give them a permanent injunction to protect a whaling operation that the Japanese government has publicly stated will not take place.

What sort of games are they playing in Japan over this issue of whaling?

The Japanese whaling industry has a history of lying and duplicity with regards to whaling. In the Sixties, Japanese and Russian whaling fleets both under-reported kill figures every year, taking a third more whales than they reported.

Japan however is in a bind. If they ignore the ICJ ruling they risk undermining their own position should the ICJ be asked to rule on the dispute between Japan and China over the contested islands of Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima in the Senkaku Island dispute.

In the recent meeting between Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Australian leader said nothing about whaling, sending a message to Abe that Australia will no longer oppose Japanese whaling in Australian Antarctic Territorial waters.

Sea Shepherd Australia will most likely encounter obstructions from the Australian government if the whalers return. Japan may even seek an injunction in the Australian Federal Court although this is highly unlikely considering that the Japanese whalers are presently in contempt of the Australian Federal Court.

For Tony Abbott it is a dilemma. The people of Australia overwhelmingly oppose whaling in the Southern Ocean and he is supposed to represent the will of the Australian people despite his obsession for trade relations at all costs.

This week will decide if the U.S. Federal Court will grant a permanent injunction to the Institute for Cetacean Research. If they do, it will be because Japan has convinced the court that they fully intend to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to resume the killing of the whales.

Will a U.S. Court make a decision in defiance of a verdict by the International Court of Justice? It is highly unlikely.

Although what the granting of such an injunction will mean is difficult to understand because the injunction will only impact Sea Shepherd USA and Sea Shepherd USA has no intention of returning to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Nonetheless the request for a permanent injunction has already heralded the reality that the ICR at least is planning on returning to the Southern Ocean in December 2015.

The other problem for Japan is their aging whaling fleet. They will have to make a decision soon to commission the construction of a replacement factory ship. This will be an enormous expense for an industry that has not made a profit in decades.

The ICJ gave Japan a face-saving way to exit from their embarrassing bogus research whaling scam. If they retreat now they will be able to say that it is because of their respect for the rule of law.

If they return they will be declaring to the world that they have little respect for international law and that they intend to do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

This of course will be consistent with Japanese foreign and fishery policy for over a century.

Paul Watson is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

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