The United Nations International Criminal Court has rejected Japan’s argument that its activities are being conducted primarily for legitimate scientific purposes. This could meant that Japan will be prohibited from conducting its annual whale hunt, at least at its current scale and scope.

United Nations Japan

Seafood is a huge part of the Japanese diet, and in broad strokes, Japanese love eating whale. Unfortunately, however, the number of whales living in the Earth’s vast oceans has been steadily declining and many species are now endangered.

Every year, the Japanese whaling fleet carries out its annual hunt. And each year it usually draws global attention as foreign government lambaste Japan and activists try to disrupt the hunt, often resulting in collisions and confrontations.

The governments of Australian and New Zealand have been the most vocal opponents to Japanese whaling, blasting the country for exploiting loopholes to conduct illegal activities. At least for now, it appears that the International Criminal Court agrees.

Whale hunting becoming taboo

Mounting public pressure over the last few decades has led many countries to ban whale hunting, but demand in Japan remained high. Despite international regulations to protect whales, Japan circumvented the regulations by claiming that it was hunting whales for scientific reasons.

The United Nations, however, has ruled that Japan’s activities are not being undertaken with scientific endeavor in mind and that far too many whales are being killed to justify under the program. The United Nations did state, however, that there are some legitimate scientific purposes that could require capturing and killing whales.

Will Japan abide by United Nations ruling?

This loophole should allow Japan to continue hunting whales, but likely in a limited manner. Whether or not Japan will abide by the United Nations, should it eventually decide to restrict whale hunting, is not yet known. Given how important whale is in Japan, there is likely to be some resistance.

Whales critically endangered

Estimates on the number of whales still living in the ocean range from 10,000 to 90,000 individuals, according to the World Wild Life fund. Some species, such as the North Atlantic right whale, are estimated to number only a few hundred whales left alive.

Also, whales are extremely difficult to keep in captivity, due to their immense size. Keeping even smaller whales, such as orcas, in captivity is expensive and difficult. Many also argue that those whales that do live in captivity suffer greatly owing to cramped conditions. This makes it even more difficult to preserve whales.

As such, preserving whale populations is a priority for many government and environmental groups.