Sunday, 22 November 2015

Campaigners try to halt Japan whale hunt in last-ditch legal fight

Australian environmental group asks court in Sydney to find Japanese whalers in contempt of a 2008 ruling banning fleet from the Southern Ocean

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Tuesday 17 November 2015 11.33 GMTLast modified on Tuesday 17 November 201512.10 GMT

Environmental campaigners are launching a last-ditch legal attempt to preventJapan from slaughtering whales in the Antarctic this winter, after Tokyo indicated it would ignore a ban on its “scientific” expeditions.

The Australian branch of Humane Society International (HSI) will on Wednesday ask the federal court in Sydney to find Kyodo Senpaku, the Japanese company that organises the hunts, in contempt of a 2008 ruling that banned the whaling fleet from hunting in an area of the Southern Ocean that Australia recognises as a whale sanctuary.

Japan, however, does not recognise the sanctuary and has continued to hunt in the area over the past several years, although it has not killed a single whale there since the international court of justice (ICJ) rejected Japanese claims in March last year that “lethal sampling” was necessary to conduct scientific research into whale populations.

Although the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986, Japan had permission to kill a certain number of whales every year for what it called scientific research, with the meat sold legally on the open market.

After initially agreeing to comply with last year’s landmark ICJ judgment in the Hague, Japan appears poised to defy the court and resume the hunts early next year.

HSI is launching its challenge to Kyodo Senpaku seven years after the federal court found Japan in breach of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and instructed it to halt whaling in the area.

The group says Japan has killed “tens, if not hundreds” of whales in the sanctuary since the injunction. “Whales are protected under Australian law, and we want to see that law upheld,” said Jess Harwood, HIS Australia’s biodiversity programme officer.

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