TOKYO, April 15 The group that conducts Japan's
whaling says it expects to resume scientific whaling in the
Antarctic after this year's hunt was cancelled in the wake of an
international court ruling ordering a halt to the disputed
The judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
last month was a blow to Japan's decades-old "scientific
whaling" in the Southern Ocean, a practice environmentalists
condemn, but Tokyo said it would abide by the decision and has
cancelled the 2014-2015 hunt.
But court papers filed in the United States by the Institute
for Cetacean Research, which, with Kyodo Sempaku, actually
carries out the whaling, said they expect to conduct hunts in
future seasons - albeit with a modified programme.
In the filing in a Seattle court last week, the two groups
sought an injunction against Sea Shepherd, an environmental
group that has pursued Japan's whaling ships during their
Antarctic hunts over the past few years. They noted that the
Japanese government had not granted permits for the next season.
"Plaintiffs expect they will be conducting a Southern Ocean
research program for subsequent seasons that would be in accord
with the ICJ decision," they added, according to the papers,
which were obtained by Reuters.
An Institute spokesman declined to comment, citing the court
case and adding that any decisions about whether it would resume
whaling would be made by the government.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday
reiterated that the government has yet to make a decision but it
may not take much longer.
"At the moment we are carefully analyzing the content of the
ruling," Suga told a news conference. "After analyzing what the
issues are, the government will come up with a policy course."
Japan has long maintained that most whale species are in no
danger of extinction and scientific whaling is necessary to
manage what it sees as a marine resource that, after World War
Two, was an important protein source for an impoverished nation.
Japan also conducts separate hunts in the northern Pacific,
while its fishermen engage in small-scale coastal whaling. An
annual dolphin slaughter has also drawn harsh global criticism.
In its ruling, the ICJ said no further licenses should be
issued for scientific whaling, in which animals are first
examined for research purposes before the meat is sold, noting
that the research objectives had to be sufficient to "justify
the lethal sampling".
At the time of the court ruling, observers said that one
possibility could indeed be for Japan to scale back its whaling
plan and submit a new proposal for approval by the ICJ.
"When the ICJ verdict was issued, I ... could see the
potential for the Institute for Cetacean Research to re-write
their program and to return," Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson
said on the organisation's website.
"My prediction was that they would return for the 2015-2016
season. It seems that this is exactly what they intend to do."
But other observers say that with Japan's whaling fleet in
need of refurbishing and consumer interest in whale meat low,
the court ruling might give the government the chance to abandon
an expensive programme - and improve its international standing.
(Writing by Elaine Lies,; Additional reporting by David Levine
in SEATTLE and Tetsuji Kajimoto in TOKYO; Editing by Clarence