A New Chapter in Whale Conservation?
Commentary by Captain Alex Cornelissen, Sea Shepherd Global Executive Director
After Monday’s historic outcome at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, we are slowly starting to realize the consequences of the court’s decision.
The court has ruled that the so-called scientific research whaling program of Japan is in reality nothing of the sort and that it has to be stopped immediately with no new permits to be given. Japan has stated that they will abide by the court’s decision. Of course, Sea Shepherd is very pleased with the ruling by the International Court.
This could very well mean that Sea Shepherd Australia won’t have to sail to the Southern Ocean at the end of this year, for our eleventh Antarctic campaign to stop the poaching of whales. Of course we will continue preparing our vessels to be ready at the end of this year, but it is certainly looking more positive than ever before.
We currently have three ships in Australian ports, soon ready to be deployed again. The first thought that came to my mind was to mount a campaign against Icelandic whaling, but there is another interesting outcome of yesterday’s case.
Because the ICJ has decided that the Japanese whaling program in the Southern Ocean (JARPA II) is not scientific in nature and therefore no new permits can be given in the name of research, what will happen with the Northern Hemisphere whaling program of Japan (JARPN II)? Isn’t this now, per definition, also illegal? The ICJ set a precedent with the ruling against JARPA II, and therefore any activity that has just as little scientific purpose should no longer be conducted under such pretenses. This decision in fact makes the JARPN II program commercial, and should Japan decide to continue the Northern hunt, wouldn’t they be in violation of the IWC regulations? We feel that the IWC now has an obligation to put a stop to the JARPN II program, and if they fail to do so, even trade sanctions could be possible against Japan.
This is certainly a vindication for Sea Shepherd and for Captain Paul Watson. When Captain Watson first decided to voyage to the Southern Ocean in 2002, nobody paid much attention to the illegality of the Japanese whaling program. There were some reports in the media but very little was done to counter Japan’s blatant commercial hunt.
Not until Sea Shepherd entered the scene did the matter become a global topic for discussion. Japan accused Sea Shepherd every year of acts of sabotage against their “perfectly legal and approved whaling program,” and we were even banned from the IWC meetings altogether. Twelve years later, we have been proven right on every count and Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean has been stopped.
Captain Watson was listed on the Interpol Red List under false claims by Japan for interfering with their illegal whale poaching operations.
An injunction was handed down to prevent our US colleagues from participating in the Antarctica campaigns.
We were accused of being pirates, radicals and extremists — of taking the law into our own hands.
But after the landmark verdict at the ICJ, the landscape has now changed and all the efforts and sacrifices made were absolutely worth it.
I want to thank all the people who have stood by us during the last 12 years; thank you to all of our donors, staff, land crew and ship crew. None of this would have been possible without your support. And, of course, none of it would have been possible if Captain Watson wouldn’t have decided to start this David versus Goliath fight 12 years ago.
Comments from Sea Shepherds in the wake of the ICJ’s ruling:
“Over the last decade, Australians have gotten to know Captain Paul Watson personally and as the man leading the charge in defense of the whales being illegally slaughtered in the Australian Antarctic whale sanctuary. Many Australians opened up their hearts and even homes to Captain Watson and Sea Shepherd, doing the job that their government refused to have the guts to do. This ICJ ruling is very welcome news, but Sea Shepherd could not wait for it to play out, or the lives of more than 5,000 whales would have been lost. Australia was once a nation that hunted whales, and it is now one of the most passionate defenders of the whales; it is hoped that Japan can be the same one day. Let’s hope that this ICJ ruling guides Japan in the direction of whale ecotourism, one that the greater whale-loving people of the world would applaud. However, if they return to the scene of their crimes against the whales, Sea Shepherd will be ready to meet them head on once more.” – Sea Shepherd Australia Director, Jeff Hansen.
"When Captain Paul Watson went down to the Southern Ocean on the Farley Mowat more than 10 years ago, no one in the world cared about the illegal whaling operations of the Japanese Whaling Fleet. It must be remembered that in those 10 years, had it not been for the interventions of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, more than 10,000 whales would have been killed. Instead, thanks to the direct action taken by Sea Shepherd, the whalers have taken a fraction of that number — about 3,500. However, this is not the end. This is the start of a new era in marine conservation where the imagination of one man and one organization can inspire the highest court in the land to stand up and deliver a judgment that will have far reaching implications for the poaching fleets across the world." - Captain Siddharth Chakravarty.
“When Sea Shepherd began our Antarctic campaigns ten years ago, it was to stand between the whales and the harpoons of what we knew to be Japan’s commercial whaling fleet. Sea Shepherd Australia took up the fight for the last two years, never failing to keep the promise to the whales made by Captain Watson a decade ago. Now, the International Court of Justice has lifted the veil of 'research' and ordered Japan to end its illegal whaling operation in Antarctica. We hope that Japan will abide by the ruling and leave the whales to migrate through their icy sanctuary in peace. While this is a victory for the whales, Sea Shepherd’s global movement has many clients and we know our work is not done. We will continue to stand between the animals of the ocean and extinction." – Sea Shepherd USA Administrative Director, Susan Hartland.