PORTOROZ, Slovenia – Japan sought international backing Wednesday for its highly criticized plan to resume whale hunting in the Antarctic next year, despite a ruling against it by the top U.N. court.
Japan negotiated at the International Whaling Commission conference in Portoroz, Slovenia, to amend a resolution about global whaling criteria so that it would allow Japan to engage in "scientific whaling."
That plan, which would lead to the killing of hundreds of whales, triggered a clash between pro- and anti-whaling countries at the meeting.
Whaling for research purposes is exempt from the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling, and Japan wants to conduct additional hunts on that basis. But in March the U.N. International Court of Justice ruled Japan's program isn't scientific and produces little research.
The court said some "scientific" whaling is allowed under very strict conditions, which Japan said it would meet.
Joji Morishita, head of Japan's delegation told the conference: "The court judgment only says that Japan should revoke existing authorization or a permit for its (previous hunting activities,) not the other special permit activities."
But Australia, which leads the opposition to Japan's plan, said Tokyo has failed to convince the meeting that its planned hunting is not for commercial purposes : producing meat and oil.
Australia's commissioner Michael Johnson said his country believes "that lethal scientific research is simply not necessary."
Approval from the commission's scientific committee isn't mandatory, but any attempt by Japan to resume whaling in the Antarctic after a one-year pause would likely face intense scrutiny.
Animal protection groups said that if the resolution is amended, it would be against the International Court of Justice ruling.
"It would harpoon the court decision and return Japan to whaling in the Southern Oceans," said Patrick Ramage, the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Whales Program director.