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Efforts to expand the understanding of the international community are indispensable for effective utilization of limited fisheries resources. In a case before the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague, where the legitimacy of Japan's research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean was examined, the ICJ ruled that Japan's actions violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and ordered the country to suspend operations.
Australia has claimed in the suit that Japan's research whaling is actually commercial whaling to profit from the sale of whale meat. Japan has counterargued that it is scientific research authorized under the treaty and that it is necessary to scientifically investigate the current situation of whales, including their geographic distribution and changes in the population.
It is quite regrettable that the ICJ did not recognize the validity of Japan's arguments.
Some observers have said the decision was influenced by the fact that many of the judges on the case are from antiwhaling countries. This reflects the harsh reality of international politics. In the future, antiwhaling nations may heighten their pressure to demand the suspension of research whaling that Japan has been conducting in the North West Pacific Ocean.
The government aims to restart the commercial whaling it was forced to suspend in 1988. It cannot be denied that research whaling is necessary for this purpose.
Of course, small-scale whaling operations in coastal areas, such as those in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, are outside international restrictions. The ICJ decision will not affect this type of whaling at all. We have to pass such traditional food culture, unique to Japan, onto future generations.
On the other hand, we are worried that the ICJ ruling might lead to more stringent limits on catches of Pacific bluefin tuna - a pricey fish species favored in Japan - in addition to other fish species.
The government must maintain and manage fisheries resources in a strategic manner, while closely monitoring the actions of the international community.
Excerpted from an editorial that appeared in the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, which has the world's largest circulation at 13.5 million. It was written in response to last week's ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague that halted a Japanese program that has captured more than 10,000 minke and other whales in the Southern Ocean since 1988 in the name of biological research.