By Brooks Hays
Japan's whaling fleet came home early this year, having caught and killed 251 minke whales instead of the planned 935.
Earlier this month, the International Court of Justice halted Japanese whaling, ruling it in violation of the 1986 moratorium on whaling.But late last week, Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research (ICR) announced plans to renew it whaling operation, promising its revamped research program will operate in strict accordance with the court’s ruling.
The ICR revealed its plans in a brief filed last week as part of an ongoing lawsuit levied by the Japanese against the Oregon branch of Sea Shepherd, an Australian environmental group that has taken to sea in recent years to protest, pester and disrupt Japan's whaling efforts.
Japan had previously claimed their whaling operations were exempt from the 1986 moratorium under loopholes that allow for scientific research. But the judge presiding over the investigation into the nature of Japan's whaling wasn't convinced.
The news came as little surprise to conservations like Phillip Clapham, a marine biologist with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.
"It’s entirely consistent with what I would expect from ICR,” Clapham told Science Magazine. Clapham has previously served as a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, a group that has been especially critical of Japan's whaling practices.
In order to presume whaling operations "in accord" with the ICJ's ruling, Japan's ICR must justify their planned activities ahead of time, and must use nonlethal force to conduct their work.
In anticipation of the ICJ ruling, Japan’s whaling ships returned early from their Antarctic expedition in March. But came home having caught and killed 251 minke whales instead of the planned 935.