By Kate Whittington
The media spotlight has been hovering over The Hague in the past week as Australia made its case against Japan's scientific whaling practices, accusing Japan of trying to "cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science." Today, Japan began their defence. But whilst the International Court of Justice seeks to reconcile the case on the basis of legality rather than morality, it cannot be denied that, beyond the courtroom walls, emotions, culture and ethics play a significant role in wider whaling discourse.
When it comes to topics such as resource management and wildlife conservation, science and culture are often unavoidably intertwined. And whilst scientific recommendations should not be influenced by emotions, once it comes to translating that science into policies, culture, traditions and strong public opinion can sometimes significantly shape the decision-making process.
Given the widespread criticism of the science3,5 (or lack thereof, depending on your views) of Japan's whaling practices, it is difficult to decipher why Japan continue to support commercial whaling in the face of such fierce international opposition. Regardless of whether Japan's whaling practices are for science, commerce or both, one thing is for certain - they aren't showing any signs of stopping. So could it be that culture and emotions are also a key driving factor for their continued harvest?
I will discuss some views on this, but first, a very brief background on the IWC, the scientific whaling clause dispute (including a diagram which demonstrates just what a convoluted and controversial topic this is!):
The International Whaling Commission was established in 1946 under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to "provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry".
Amid concerns over the notable depletion of whale stocks (due to a history of over-harvesting in the whaling industry), as well as the scientific uncertainty surrounding estimates of stock abundance, a "precautionary principle" was adopted and the moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986. More....