July 9 ~ 2013
NEW ZEALAND INTERVENES IN WHALING CASE
by Andrew Darby ~ Hobart correspondent for Fairfax Media
|High stakes battle: Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin closes in on the Japanese research vessel Nisshin Maru earlier this year. Photo: Reuters/Sea Shepherd|
New Zealand has rejected Japan's claim to be legally whaling in the Antarctic as an attempt to reduce the global whaling treaty to an industry cartel.
Intervening in the International Court of Justice case brought by Australia against Japan on Monday, the NZ Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson, said the treaty's purpose was not the protection of commercial whaling.
Instead Mr Finlayson told the ICJ in The Hague that the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was intended to be for the conservation and development of whale stocks.
Its key article eight on "special permit" scientific whaling, which is being argued before ICJ, did not give carte blanche to any member country to sidestep the rest of the treaty, he said.
Under the article, Japan currently issues its whalers with permits to kill up to 935 minke whales, 50 fin whales, and 50 humpback whales in the Antarctic.
Over 26 years more than 10,000 whales have been killed in the program, including 18 fin whales, but the humpback quota has been suspended.
Japan told the court last week that article eight unambiguously said decision-making power on permits rested with the state party concerned.
Mr Finlayson said Japan had tried to sew together snippets of the article to construct a blanket exemption from other parts of the treaty.
"Far from creating a blanket exemption, the words create an obligation on the contracting government to operate within the words of the convention when issuing a special permit," Mr Finlayson said.
New Zealand counsel's, Penelope Ridings, said countries which chose to issue special permits had obligations to objectively determine the lowest number of whales necessary to kill.
Dr Ridings said "strident unilateralism" by any country issuing a special permit would be contrary to international obligations for meaningful co-operation.
Australia has told the court that Japan's scientific program is commercial whaling cloaked in the ''lab coat of science''.
Japan replied that Australia was on an alarmist crusade to impose its cultural preferences over the Japanese.
NZ's intervention came in the third week of the hearing, ahead of the appearance of Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Tuesday as final submissions begin.