By Monique La Terra

As world leaders gathered in Paris for the COP21 conference the Japan Fisheries Agency reported to the International Whaling Commission of their intention to, once again, begin “scientific whaling.”

This announcement comes in direct violation of the March 2014 International Court of Justice ruling, which found that JAPRA II Antarctic whaling was not “for purposes of scientific research.”

In November, Environmental Minister Greg Hunt said “we do not accept in any way, shape or form the concept of killing whales for so-called ‘scientific research” and along with our New Zealand neighbours, both the Labor and Coalition parties oppose Japan’s invasive and murderous study methods.

Only a month ago the Federal Court of Australia fined Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha $1 million for the slaughter of minke whales in the Australian whale sanctuary.

Yet despite these findings four ships, including the Nisshin Maru, with a total crew count of 160 Japanese “scientists”, have ignored the courts and have instead set sail towards the Antarctic to kill and catch 333 minke whales between now and March 2016 under a new program titled NEWREP-A, or New Scientific Whale Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean.

The new program will continue for 12 years with an estimated 4000 whales to be killed in that time. Ostensibly, the aim of NEWREP-A will be to collect data on Antarctic minke whales for biological and ecological purposes and to study the Antarctic ecosystem. Although it is widely known that this scientific data ends up on the dinner plate.

Japan justifies its whaling program, citing scientific exemption under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which allows whaling to be conducted only under two exceptions: Aboriginal whaling and scientific purposes. Originally, Japan was not a member of the IWC, but in 1951 they joined only to object to the commercial whaling moratorium in 1982, along with Norway, and by 1987 Japan began its whaling program.

NEWREP-A will be a key discussion point when the IWC convenes in 2016, but until then the Nisshin Maru and three other Japanese vessels will be scouring the Antarctic for edible statistics.

On Monday the 7th of December the Sea Shepard ship the Steve Irwin left Melbourne to keep a watchful eye on the Southern Ocean and plans have been proposed to send an Australian customs vessel to monitor the situation, but Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepard said this month that ‘we cannot simply defeat the Japanese on the water, we also need to do so in the courts and we cannot surrender to their arrogance in defying international law,’ and although right in his thinking, the fight is too big to be fought by activists alone.

Economic pressure and trade restrictions need to be implemented in order for Japan to take Australia’s standing on whaling seriously. For a country built on respect and obedience, the Japanese were quick to rebel against authority and seem to have thrown a childlike tantrum when they weren’t given their way.

Photo: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service