Can We Stop Whaling?

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by Leon Gettler

Can we stop the whaling?

All focus has been on whaling lately with Australia announcing that it’s taking Tokyo to court over so-called "scientific" whaling in the Southern Ocean. The legal application is being lodged with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

Australia's case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeks to stop Japan exploiting a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium which allows whaling for “scientific” research purposes.

This is a bold step but it’s important with Greenpeace pointing out that one whale population after another is being driven towards extinction.

Still, it’s risky. For a start, Japan is a major trading partner.

Secondly, the Japanese have already rebuffed the move and have shown no sign of giving up whaling.  Japanese agriculture minister Hirotaka Akamatsu has told reporters that Japan is doing nothing wrong and that all the Australian government is doing is drumming up support in the lead up to the Federal election at a time when it isn’t travelling that well.

Every year, Japanese whalers clash militant environmentalists who harass them on the high seas with the adversaries regularly trading icy jets from water cannon, while the environmentalists hurl blood-red paint containers and rancid butter, or butyric acid, stink bombs at the whaling ships. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society harassed Japanese whalers in Antarctic waters for months in the 2009-2010 season. Both sides say that campaign reduced the Japanese cull by several hundred whales. One of its members, Peter Bethune, is on trial in Japan on five charges after he boarded the security ship of the Japanese whaling fleet in February. Sea Shepherd has since banned Bethune from further whaling protests following allegations that he was carrying a bow and arrows.

Australia’s action against the Japanese has been welcomed but it’s high risk. It hasn’t stopped Japan from launching its latest whaling mission
with the aim of killing 260 of the giant mammals . New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says
that he prefers a diplomatic solution. Key says that taking the Japanese to court is risky. “If we go to court, the International Court of Justice, as Australia is, we may well lose, and loss means open slather," Key says.

Meanwhile, Greens leader Bob Brown says the court case won’t be resolved before the election, suggesting that the action is politically-motivated. “It is very careful election engineering rather than any sort of stay of the harpoons," Brown says.

What do you think? Should Australia take Tokyo to court? Or do you think it can be done diplomatically?