Despite widespread public opposition to the brutal business of whaling – which kills 16,000 whales every year, and has driven the Blue Whale to the brink of extinction – countries such as Japan, Norway, and Iceland have continued to engage in it. Japanese whalers carry out their hunts under the guise of “scientific research,” despite the fact that no scientific papers have ever been published as a result of their expeditions. In 2014, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Japan was banned from hunting whales in Antarctic waters … but a number of Japanese whaling companies have chosen to continue their operations in this area regardless.
Australian groups have been leading the charge against Japanese whaling ships’ misconduct for a long time. Sea Shepherd Australia successfully prevented their efforts to hunt whales in an Antarctic whale sanctuary on multiple occasions, saving almost 750 whales from slaughter in 2014 alone. And now, in a case brought forward by Humane Society International (HSI) Australia, an Australian federal court has found whaling company Kyodo Senpaku guilty of “wilful contempt of court” for failing to adhere to a court order to stop killing whales in the Antarctic sanctuary. The company now faces a fine of AUS $1million ($721,800).
HSI had alleged that Kyodo had breached the court order several times since it was first introduced in 2008. Barrister Jeremy Kirk SC, speaking on behalf of HSI, told the court that Kyodo had committed “serious offences” by flouting the order and should be fined “at least six figures.”
Federal court judge Jayne Jagot found the company guilty of all the alleged breaches. In her ruling, she said, “It is unnecessary for me to do more than provide a brief outline of the reasons why I am satisfied … that Kyodo has committed contempt of court as identified in the statement of charge.” She further added that public interest in the 2008 injunction, the need to deter Kyodo and others from engaging in such actions in the future, and evidence that the company had “sought general commercial revenue” from their illegal whaling attempts, had all contributed to the AUS $1million penalty levelled against them.
The ruling represents the first finding of contempt against Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
HSI Australia’s director, Michael Kennedy, urged the Australian government to now put pressure on Japan to comply with the 2008 order. “If whaling in Antarctic waters does resume this year, as we fear it will, and Kyodo continues to ignore the injunction, we ask that the Australian government raises this with the Japanese government to ensure that Australian laws for the protection of whales are observed,” he said.
Japanese whaling companies are notorious for ignoring public disapproval of their activities – in spite of the fact that the Japanese public’s appetite for whale meat has been diminishing in recent years. However, this latest ruling will hopefully send a clear message that their attempts to continue with their illegal whaling activities will no longer be tolerated.
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