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For years, Japan has defended its Antarctic whaling activities as “scientific research,” allowing the country to skirt the international moratorium on commercial whaling set in place in 1986 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

“Since the global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced, Japan has killed more than 14,000 whales in the name of science, the vast majority of these in the Southern Ocean,” International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports.

Now, following a brand new ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, Japan will no longer be able to hide its unsustainable and cruel activities under the guise of “research.” In fact, the World Court has deemed Japan’s Antarctic whale hunt illegal under international law, which is HUGE news.

According to the IFAW, the World Court found that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program “failed to meet the conditions for scientific whaling” set by the IWC and has “ruled that no further permits for scientific whaling should be issued under Japan’s scientific whaling [program].”

The ruling also means that the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, which Sea Shepherd has worked tirelessly to protect each year, will once again be a safe haven for Antarctic whales, allowing these magnificent beings to be fully protected from slaughter operations.


The ICJ case against Japan’s Antarctic whale hunt was brought about by Australia, who has sought to halt Japan’s unlawful whaling activities since 2010. Thankfully, it looks like this battle is now over as Japan will not fight the ICJ’s final ruling.

“As a state that respects the rule of law … and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the court,” said Japan’s Chief Negotiator Koji Tsuruoka.

Now doesn’t that just make you want to jump for joy?

While this particular case was solely concerned with Japan’s Antarctic whaling activities and not its North Pacific ones, marine protection nonprofit, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) believes Japan may soon “be faced with ending its high seas hunts” due to dwindling demand for whale meat and the potential for future legal actions.

Without a doubt, the ICJ’s new ruling is a “turning point in ending commercial whaling once and for all,” as WDC states. This is a fantastic victory, and one that deserves to be celebrated. So let’s bake up a delicious vegan cake or two and cheer with Antarctica’s whales!

For more information on the ruling, check out the ICJ’s press release right here.

Image source: Nesbitt_Photo / Flickr