The Japanese whaling factory vessel the Nisshin Maru pulls two whales up the slipway for processingThe Japanese whaling fleet's factory vessel, the Nisshin Maru, is responsible for the processing of all whales caught
in the Southern Ocean
Photo courtesy Australia Customs
Japan may finally be brought to justice for killing whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary under the ‘research whaling’ loophole as a landmark legal case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, the Netherlands, begins on June 26, 2013. Following a 2008 order from an Australian Court to end the Japanese whale hunts that ICR has ignored, the Australian government will present its case against Japan’s whaling operations in the Southern Ocean during the three-week-long hearing scheduled to run through July 16, 2013. Australia launched the case in 2010, asking the ICJ to halt a hunt that violates the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) laws’ moratorium on commercial whaling, and was on a scale far beyond the ICRW's rules on killing whales for research.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be present at the legal proceedings for the duration of the trial. Sea Shepherd has historically been at the forefront of defending whales in the remote Southern Ocean, reducing the effectiveness of Japan’s annual self-imposed kill quota of more than 1,000 whales. During the 2012-2013 hunting season, Japan only managed to kill 103 Minke whales (including pregnant females), the lowest tally to date, as a result of international volunteers led by Sea Shepherd Australia’s non-violent interventions. Since the whaling moratorium was introduced in 1986, Japan has killed more than 14,000 whales under the scientific research clause, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare — 14,000 whales, during an international moratorium on whaling and in a designated whale sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd USA hopes the outcome of this case will finally bring redemption to the whales and allow the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary to truly serve as the sanctuary it was designated as and not as killing grounds. “Although the battle to defend whales is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere, people around the world are concerned about the ruling of this case – these are not just Australia’s whales, they are the world’s whales and we all have a vested interest in their survival and well-being,” said Sea Shepherd USA’s Administrative Director Susan Hartland. “A loss in the World Court would be devastating to people worldwide who support the efforts to save the whales, and as more than 90% of the planet’s great whales have been wiped out, we need to fight hard to protect the remaining ones from the same fate.”

While the legal battle of Australia vs. Japan will play out in The Hague, Sea Shepherd USA will continue its battle for the whales in a defense against Japan’s Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) here on home turf. To take advantage of the research loophole and sidestep the international ban on commercial whaling, Japanese whaling vessels are emblazoned with “RESEARCH.” The ICR was given an injunction against Sea Shepherd USA to halt the non-profit’s participation in effective interventions in order to continue to freely kill whales. In early 2012, the lower court originally denied ICR’s injunction; the judges’ ruling acknowledged SSCS USA’s harmless, low-level harassment and recognized its public benefit. However, on December 17, 2012, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision with no supporting laws or details. The court injunction prevents Captain Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd USA, and any party acting in concert with them from interfering with the ICR, requiring a 500-yard buffer from ICR vessels. This extreme ruling came with no opportunity for an evidentiary hearing to plead the case. If the ruling stands, the future of Sea Shepherd USA and the marine wildlife it actively defends could be at risk.

The public hearings from the ICJ will be broadcast live and in full on the International Court of Justice's website at www.icj-cij.org/presscom/multimedia.php?p1=6 and will be available on UN Web TV at http://webtv.un.org/.

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