Japan will be defying an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling if it resumes its whaling activities early next year. Following a break of more than 12 months, the Japanese government said it will begin whaling under a revised “scientific” programme after taking into account the court ruling. Hence, this time it will catch only a third of the minke whales it caught last year under its previous whaling programme. The number comes to 333 whales as it hunted 1000 whales last year. Japan stopped whaling March 2014.

According to The Guardian, Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said that Japan cannot unilaterally take the decision of starting whaling activities again in Antarctica against the advice of scientists.

“Australia strongly opposes the decision by Japan to resuming whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer,” Hunt said.

The International Whaling Commission has been notified by the Japanese Fisheries Agency of its decision to revive whaling under its revised plan in the 2015-16 season. The commission is closely studying the “science” behind Japan’s revised policy and has also raised serious concerns.

Joji Morishita, Japan’s International Whaling Commissioner confirmed Japan’s decision to resume whaling and is of the opinion that the new programme “does not require any substantial charges,” reports The Guardian.

The announcement has been condemned by environmental groups and UK and Australian governments. Hunt said that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have directly informed Japan that Australia is against whaling and that Australia will continue to pursue the whaling issues through the IWC. It will also get into direct discussions with Japan.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, the consequences of this blatant disregard for the international law might damage Japan’s relationship with Australia as the situation is not only about saving whales but Japan’s decision is a self-defeating complication.

On one hand, nervous governments are demanding that China be more assertive and follow established rules and on the other, Tokyo is in total disregard of the international rules on whaling. Thus, it makes the situation complex and might have devastating impacts. The episode will surely not go unnoticed in Beijing.

Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler condemned Japan’s whaling decision “disgracegul.” Sea Shepherd, a conservation group that sent boats annually to disrupt whaling activities by Japan warned Tokyo that returning to hunt whales will be illegal.

“We would like to remind the Japanese government that the whales of the Southern Ocean are protected by international law, by Australian law and by Sea Shepherd,” chief executive Alex Cornelissen said.

Last year, Japan lost to Australia in the ICJ when it ruled Japan’s apparently “scientific” whaling programme as not scientific at all. Tokyo was asked to recall its entire fleet. In April 2003, Japan announced that its whaling haul from Southern Ocean was at a record low because of constant interference from activists belonging to Sea Shepherd.

According to the ICJ, Japan has hunted down close to 3,600 minke whales since 2005 under its current programme. Japan accused critics of disregarding scientific evidence about sustainability and of sentimentality. It has also refused to believe that most species are endangered and has pointed out that eating whale meat is a part of Japan’s food culture.

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