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Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand Intervening)

International Court of Justice
2014 I.C.J. 148, ICJ GL No 148, ICGJ 471 (ICJ 2014), 31st March 2014, International Court of Justice [ICJ] (2014), ICJ GL No. 148 (March 31st, 2014), 2014 I.C.J. General List No. 148 (March 31)


Recent advancing technology in the whaling industry had caused massive reductions in whale populations, resulting in near-extinction for some whale species. Nations that participated in the whaling industry aimed to fix this problem by entering into multilateral treaties to restrict the killing of whales. When these treaties did not achieve significant results, the United States called an international conference, the result of which was the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW). The ICRW created the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was comprised of representatives from each nation that was a party to the treaty. After environmental awareness began to grow, numerous anti-whaling countries ratified the ICRW and joined the IWC. In 1982, the IWC imposed a general moratorium upon commercial whaling and later established a whale sanctuary. Japan (defendant) cast the only negative vote against these measures. The moratorium included two exceptions, one allowing for aboriginal-subsistence whaling and the other allowing nations to grant licenses for whaling for scientific-research purposes. Japan continued its whaling program, JARPA II, which used lethal methods to catch whales, under the scientific-research exception. In May 2010, Australia (plaintiff) sued Japan, claiming that JARPA II violated the moratorium. Australia’s and Japan’s opposing arguments highlighted different interpretations of the goals and purpose of the ICRW, as outlined in the Preamble, and the meaning of Article VIII, which provided for the scientific-research exception and stated that whaling conducted under an Article VIII license was not subject to the moratorium’s obligations. The Preamble of the ICRW further indicated that the purpose of the ICRW was to ensure the conservation of whales while permitting the sustainable exploitation of whales.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning

Concurrence/Dissent (Charlesworth, J.)

Dissent (Owada, J.)

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