By Captain Alex Cornelissen, Global Executive Officer. Sea Shepherd Global.
As expected today the Japanese delegates challenged the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice in regards to the court case about commercial whaling in the Antarctic.
To start the Japanese case however was deputy foreign minister, Koji Tsuruoka. His presentation was, as is usual with Japanese government officials, filled with accusations of cultural insensitivity and absurd statements of Japan being the outstanding citizen. What struck us most was the claim Japan has the utmost respect for life in the oceans ("living in harmony with its natural resources") as well as international treaties and regulations.
If there is one thing the Japanese government doesn’t respect, it is without a doubt life in the oceans. Blue fin tuna, whales, dolphins, sharks to name but a few. In fact, it seems Japan is doing what it can these days to eliminate all life in the oceans. With regards to the treaties and regulations, the very reason we are in the Hague is their lack of respect for the regulations and the downright arrogance while being in defiance. Another good example is the listing of several species of sharks on CITES. Adapted by CITES and simply objected by Japan. If there was respect for international rules and regulations than why is Japan so often in the news over these controversial issues. The answer is simple: when it comes to environmental issues, the Japanese government places itself above the international community and their opinion. In a democratic society you would expect the majority gets their way. Not in the opinion of the Japanese government, they seem to believe they stand above the international community and have their own set of rules and regulations.
Some examples from today:
The focus of the Japanese defense on the number of whales being killed under Jarpa II (not the topic of this court case but one of the ways to divert the focus away). They claim 935 whales is a sustainable number based on current population counts of Antarctic Minke whales. First of all there no reliable numbers of Antarctic Minkes, so their basic assumption is false. Furthermore if other countries also kill similar numbers of Minke whales, we will basically have returned to the situation before the moratorium on commercial whaling. Japan’s mission is and has always been to resume commercial whaling. The fact that the world’s opinion on whaling has changed and that the IWC’s mission seems to have shifted from regulating whaling to protecting whales seems to be unacceptable to the Japanese government.
Claims that the anti whaling nations have bought votes for the IWC. I distinctly remember a recent BBC investigation that clearly showed that it is Japan that is buying votes in the IWC. One Caribbean delegacy even showed up with the membership money in a brown paper bag full of Yen. Sounds like an attempt to re-write history.
Most of today was an attempt to get the focus of the court away from the real case and Japan went at great length to accomplish that. They even went so far that they tried to turn this court case in a plea to stop Sea Shepherd. A strategy they have tried again and again at the IWC to the point that most members of the IWC are fed up with it. The situation turned bizarre when Japanese counsel started listing Sea Shepherd as a violent organization, in fact claiming we are illegal. If that would be the case than would we be allowed inside the International Court of Justice? Would we be allowed to proudly fly the Dutch flag? Would we be able to do what we do year after year: stop the illegal whale poachers from killing whales inside an established whale sanctuary. Furthermore we heard grossly inaccurate attempts to discredit our organization, even saw pictures of the Bob Barker being pushed into the Sun Laurel by the Nisshin Maru...only the Nisshin Maru wasn’t shown and counsel said that the Bob Barker rammed the Sun Laurel. Video evidence has proven differently.
I guess the explanation for this totally irrelevant sidestep we saw today is this (although we appreciate the credit for our actions): The Japanese delegates are insulted that Sea Shepherd is allowed to witness how they are being accused in the highest court of law. Accusations Sea Shepherd has been upholding for over a decade. The Japanese delegates are petrified and shocked at the idea that Sea Shepherd not only stands the chance to be proven right by the highest judicial body, but also to be able to firsthand witness the defeat of Japan.
It is clear that based on content Japan cannot win this case, they are very much in violation of the regulations and the whole world knows it. Their strategy appears to be an attempt to take the focus away from the real case and to bombard the court with irrelevant information mostly aimed to discredit Australia and New Zealand.
What Japanese counsel seems to forget is that this case concerns everybody in the International community and the International community is fed up with their blatant disregard for international regulations and treaties. Since the International Court of Justice rules in favour of the common interest I sincerely hope the honourable judges will see that Japanese whaling is illegal and has to be stopped. This seems to be the world’s desire and it is about time Japan realises that.