The Japanese Antarctic whaling program has been ruled by the UN's top court to be a commercial activity that is not for scientific purposes. The court ordered Japan to halt its annual hunt in the region.
Monday's ruling by the International Court of Justice was read out in The Hague by presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia. The case was brought by Australia in 2010, arguing that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean was a commercial exercise disguised as scientific research.
"In light of the fact the JARPA II [research program] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3,600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited," Tomka said.
"Japan shall revoke any existant authorization, permit or licence granted in relation to JARPA II and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the program," said Tomka.
Australia and environmental groups say Japan's insistence that its program is scientific is a way to get around a moratorium on commercial whaling, imposed in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission. Norway and Iceland have rejected the moratorium and conduct commercial whaling programs.
In its application, Australia accused Japan of failing to "observe in good faith the zero catchment limit in relation to the killing of whales." Japan argued it was an attempt by Australia to use the court to impose its cultural standards on Japan, where the practice of eating whale meat is a culinary tradition, rather than a violation of international law.
Japan has said that its haul from the Southern Ocean has dropped to a record low because of "unforgivable sabotage" by activists from the group Sea Shepherd.
jr/msh (AP, AFP)