Australian Federal Court orders end to Japanese whale hunt in Australian Whale Sanctuary.
In January 2008 HSI secured a historic victory against the Japanese whalers in the Australian Federal Court. After a four year long court case the Federal Court issued a judgement that declared Japanese whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica to be a breach of Australian law and issued an injunction ordering the hunt to be stopped.HSI brought the case against the Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha which has an annual permit from the Japanese government to kill 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales in Antarctica every summer – ostensibly for scientific research. Based on records of previous hunts, every other year approximately 90% of these whales are killed in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
The decision from the Federal Court is historic in that it is the first time the Japanese whalers have been taken to court and it confirms that the hunt is illegal. HSI served the order that the hunt be stopped at the company's headquarters in Tokyo and we have called on them to abandon the hunt immediately. They have ignored the injunction and their continued whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary is in contempt of the Australian Federal Court.
The Labor Government supported HSI's case against the Japanese whalers in contrast to the previous government who opposed it and, prior to the 2007 Federal election, they said they would enforce a Federal Court injunction. However, they soon back tracked on this promise and in the season following the injunction, instead of sending a Government vessel to enforce the injunction, they sent the Oceanic Viking to the Australian Whale Sanctuary to ‘monitor' the hunt and gather evidence for a separate international court case.
HSI called repeatedly on the Government to enforce the Federal Court injunction against the whalers so that no more whales are killed in the Australian Whale Sanctuary.
Image: HSI Director Michael Kennedy and HSI Wildlife and Habitats Program Manager
Nicola Beynon with Barrister Chris McGrath and EDO's Jessica Simpson outside the Federal Court.
background to the case
In November 2004 HSI commenced Federal Court action against the Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd for routinely slaughtering whales in Australia's Whale Sanctuary in breach of Australian law.
The Australian Whale Sanctuary was proclaimed in 2000 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999, and includes the waters within Australia's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone adjacent to the Australian Antarctic Territory. Since July 2000 when the Act came into effect, hunting whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary has been an offence attracting heavy penalties. Yet, between 2000 and 2006, HSI estimates that Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha has killed in excess of 1300 whales within the Australian Whale Sanctuary in breach of Australian law with hundreds more added every year.
The Japanese Government issues permits to Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha to hunt whales as part of the Japanese Whale Research Program in Antarctica (JARPA). A research program everyone knows is a flimsy excuse to get around the International Whaling Commission ban on commercial whaling in place since 1986. In 2005 Japan announced JARPA II which more than doubles the scale of the hunt and expands it to new endangered species. In the 2005/2006 seasons permits to kill 935 minke whales and 10 fin whales were issued. From 2007/2008, this escalated to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales. A large proportion of these whales will be killed within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. (50 humpback whales scheduled for the 2007/2008 hunt have been given a reprieve).
The dramatic expansion of the hunt means HSI's court case is now more important than ever.
History of the case
In July 2006 HSI won the first hurdle in the case, winning an appeal against a decision from Justice James Allsop in May 2005 which had denied us permission to even bring the case because of concerns raised by Australia's Attorney General that it could “give rise to an international disagreement with Japan”.
Over the next year HSI overcame several more obstacles, including the Japanese government's refusal to routinely serve the court documents to Kyodo Senpaku. However, this resulted in no more than a delay to the proceedings, as in February HSI obtained court approval to serve the documents via alternate means. In July 2007 the court resumed again, with the defendant once again conspicuously absent, in order to set a date for the final substantive hearing.
HSI returned to court on 18th September 2007 for the final hearing, more than three years since opening these proceedings, to present our evidence and testimony to Justice Allsop. As soon as the Rudd Government took office in November 2007 they wrote to the Federal Court to withdraw the opposition to the case that had been previously expressed to the court by former Attorney General on behalf of the Howard Government. On the 15th January 2008 the Federal Court declared the hunt to be in breach of Australian law and ordered an injunction for it to be stopped. However, while the Rudd Government was happy for the case to be heard, they did not live up to pre-election commitments to enforce the injunction,.
Click here for the Federal Court judgement
HSI was ably and generously represented in our legal proceedings by Stephen Gageler QC, Junior Counsel Chris McGrath and the Environmental Defender's Office of NSW.
back to top