An Australian court ruled contempt of court against a Japanese whaling company on Wednesday for breaching an order to cease killing whales. The company was ordered to pay $1 million fine.

The Humane Society International (HSI) initiated the legal proceedings against Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, after an injunction required Kyodo to stop whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary. In 2008, the Federal Court found that Kyodo killed minke whales in the sanctuary, which violated Australia's chief environmental protection legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

According to presiding judge Jayne Jagot, Kyodo's conduct in breach of the injunction was “deliberate, systematic and sustained.” Jagot said she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Kyodo had killed tens, if not hundreds, of whales over four separate annual whaling campaigns.

In penalising Kyodo, Justice Jagot said the $1 million fine reflects the “serious nature of the breaches” and that the amount was intended to “denounce Kyodo's conduct” as well as to act as a deterrent to other whaling vessels.

HSI welcomed the court’s swift decision on the “bullet-proof case” prepared and presented by the Environmental Defenders Office. The group is urging the Australian government to redouble its diplomatic efforts with Japan to ensure it knows that the international community condemns any resumption of whaling in the Southern Oceans.

If Kyodo continues to ignore the 2008 injunction and the decision of the Federal Court today, it is critical that Australian government raises the issue with the Japanese government in the most forceful way possible, said HSI director Michael Kennedy. “We would also expect the Australian Government to assess what further legal options are open to it under international law,” Kennedy added.

According to HSI, since the global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, Japan has defied the ban and killed more than 15,000 whales in the name of scientific research.

Japan has a long history of whaling, which dates back to hundreds of years ago, as reported by the Animal Planet. However, it wasn't until 1934 that the country expanded its whaling to Antarctica. Despite various global attempts to stop the activity, the country continues to hunt whales, claiming it is part of their history and culture. Its defenders say eating whale meat is an old and impenetrable Japanese tradition.

Japan also claims that minke whales remain plentiful, with a population of 761,000 in the Southern Ocean. The country says its whaling research over the last two decades has paved the way for long-term, sustainable use of the "renewable marine food resource."

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