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Japan Must Halt Annual Whale Hunt, International Court Order

The International Court of Justice ruled Monday that Japan can no longer continue its annual whale hunt, rejecting the country’s argument that it was for scientific purposes.

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Fishermen pull a Baird’s Beaked whale with a rope at Wada Port on July 29, 2009, in Minamiboso, Chiba, Japan. Only five ports are allowed whaling under the coastal whaling program, which tries to keep whaling tradition that dates back to the seventeenth century. Japan is only allowed to hunt a limited number of whales every year. Japan was orderedt o revoke all whaling permits by the ICJ on March 31, 2014. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

“Japan shall revoke any extant authorization, permit or license granted in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance of that program,” the court said, referring to the research program.

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

READ: ICJ Ruling on Whaling in the Antartic

READ: Response from Sea Shepherd activist group

Japan’s fleet carries out an annual whale hunt despite a worldwide moratorium, taking advantage of a loophole in the law that permits the killing of the mammals for scientific research. Whale meat is commonly available for consumption in Japan.

Each year, environmental groups such as Sea Shepherd pursue the Japanese hunters in an attempt to disrupt the whaling. The resulting confrontations have led to collisions of ships and the detention of activists.

The Australian government challenged the Japanese whaling program in the International Court of Justice, leading to Monday’s ruling.

TO GO WITH Environment-whaling-IWC-Japan

n a picture taken on June 16, 2010, sushi shop owner Katsuji Furuuchi makes up a whale sushi from a sliced minke meat and a rice ball in Japanese whaling town Ayukawahama, Miyagi prefecture. Ayukawahama was once a major whaling port, where fishermen would drag the ocean giants into harbour, colouring the water red and, elder residents recall, sending the stench of whale carcasses wafting through town. But the industry has long been in decline, especially since commercial whaling was banned in 1986, although Japanese harpoon ships still harvest the animals as far as Antarctic waters in the name of “scientific research.” Those hunts were ordered stop in a ruling of the United Nations’ highest court on March 31, 2014. (Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images)