Since 1904 whales in the Southern Ocean have been hunted. This will be the first year since then that they will be safe from harpoons. The government of Japan has officially cancelled plans for its annual whaling expedition in Antarctic waters.
This is an incredible victory for whales and for those calling for an end to commercial whaling. Greenpeace hopes that we will never again see ships whaling in the Southern Ocean, so we canfocus on the other threats to these magnificent animals and the ocean that is their home.
[caption id="attachment_25374" align="alignnone" width="600"] A Humpback whale breaks the surface as it heads south to Antarctica for the summer.[/caption]
Earlier this week,The UNs International Court of Justice ruled that Japans research whaling program in the Southern Ocean was not justifiable or reasonable. It ruled in a case brought by Australia, charging that "scientific research" was a thinly-guised justification for Japan to hunt whales commercially. Whale meat is openly sold in Japan.
Major Japanese media sources today confirmed that Japan's whaling program in the Southern Ocean will be cancelled for 2014. The government of Japan cited the court judgment and the timing, claiming that developing new plans for this years hunt is impossible.
The Government of Japan was also criticized for hunting endangered fin whales and violating the internationally agreed upon Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Although the historic court case solely references the Southern Ocean, Japanese government sources suggested that the judgment could also force a review of research whaling in the North Pacific.
[caption id="attachment_24615" align="alignnone" width="600"] A Fin Whale at Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals.[/caption]
Greenpeace has sent anti-whaling expeditions to the Antarctic nine times, starting in 1989, with the last one in 2008. Since then Greenpeace has been working within Japan to oppose the subsidies that keep whaling alive and to weaken the market for whale meat. The market for whale meat in Japan is collapsing and the Antarctic hunt has not been profitable for a long time.
Finally Southern Ocean whales can live in peace. I'm still overwhelmed by this news, with tears of joy making my vision a little blurry. We would have never gotten this far without the support of all of Greenpeace's supporters. Thank you for caring and supporting our work. This recent victory is a huge step toward ending all commercial whaling. Although we still have a long road ahead to end commercial whaling in Iceland, Norway, and the north Pacific, this is a huge victory. It's truly time for some celebration.
Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.