Federal Court Gives HSI the Go Ahead to Sue Japanese Whalers
The Federal Court of Australia has given Humane Society International (HSI) permission to proceed with a court case against the Japanese whaling company that hunts whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary adjacent to Antarctica as part of Japan’s so-called “scientific research” program.
HSI estimates the company, Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd, has killed well over 850 minke whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary since it was proclaimed in July 2000 under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. This year the company added giant fin whales to their annual hunt and from next year they plan to start killing threatened humpback whales.
Under the EPBC Act it is an offence to kill whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary and conservation groups have the power to go to the Federal Court to demand the law be enforced. However, HSI needed initial permission from the Court to commence proceedings because the case involves a foreign company.
Last year, Justice James Allsop refused HSI permission to bring the case, citing concerns raised by Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock over Australia’s diplomatic relations with Japan. The Attorney-General had submitted to the Court that enforcing the Australian Whale Sanctuary against the Japanese company “would be likely to give rise to an international disagreement with Japan”.
HSI mounted an appeal to the Full Court of the Federal Court asking for Justice Allsop’s decision to be overturned. Today, the Federal Court has given HSI the go ahead to commence proceedings. All three judges believed Justice Allsop erred in taking into account political considerations.
HSI is now able to ask the Federal Court to declare the company’s activities illegal under Australian law and to issue an injunction for the hunt to be stopped.
“Humane Society International is glad to have overcome the first hurdle in our case against the Japanese company killing whales in Australia’s sanctuary, said HSI Director Michael Kennedy. “We are pleased the Full Court of the Federal Court saw fit to place the enforcement of Australian federal environment legislation ahead of diplomatic concerns”.
Once HSI commences the proceedings against Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd, further hearings will be required to confirm the whaling is illegal under the EPBC Act and for the Court to decide whether to grant the injunction to stop the hunt.
HSI’s court case comes at a crucial time when Japan is escalating its whale hunts and when Japan’s campaign to recruit developing countries to join the International Whaling Commission has tipped the number of votes in favour of continued whaling.
HSI sincerely thanks our Senior Counsel Stephen Gageler, Barrister Chris McGrath and the Environmental Defenders Office for their generosity in representing us.