There's no need for whaling

Former Marlborough Sounds whalers and Kaikoura whale watchers have welcomed the decision by the International Court of Justice to outlaw whaling by the Japanese.

Arapawa Island resident Joe Heberley said the eight men who once caught whales in New Zealand waters now opposed the killing of whales and worked for their conservation.

"When we were involved, whaling was an essential business. It was used to strengthen steel, for lighting, lubrication. It's not now. I believe there shouldn't be any whaling now.

"There's no need for it."

The last whaling station in New Zealand, the Perano station in Tory Channel, closed in December 1964, he said.

Before overfishing of whale stocks in the Antarctic in the 1950s and 1960s, Heberley said there used to be hundreds of whales migrating through Cook Strait.

This decision might mean the numbers could build up again.

"I would love my grandchildren to see them the way we used to."

Whale Watch Kaikoura chief operating officer Kauahi Ngapora said the decision was a victory for justice and for what many had fought for over many years.

"It has been our consistent belief that Japan's Southern Ocean whale hunt was illegal and actually a hunting exercise weakly veiled under the guise of scientific research.

"Whales are a taonga for all in the world to enjoy. They have been exploited and in many cases driven to or near extinction. Whales provide not only a powerful experience when viewed in nature but have also been the catalyst to re-invigorate the Kaikoura community.

"I join with many in our community to applaud this decision and we. . . will remain staunch in our opposition and fight to put an end to these barbaric and unnecessary killings."

Judges at the International Court of Justice, the highest United Nations court, on Monday rejected Japan's long-held argument that the catch was for scientific purposes.

The court sided with plaintiff Australia, supported by New Zealand, in finding that the scientific output of the whaling programme did not justify the number of whales killed.

The tribunal said no further licences should be issued for scientific whaling, where animals are first examined for research purposes before the meat was sold to consumers.

Presiding Judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia said: "In light of the fact the JARPA II [research programme] has been going on since 2005, and has involved the killing of about 3600 minke whales, the scientific output to date appears limited."

Japan signed a 1986 moratorium on whaling, but has continued to hunt up to 850 minke whales in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, as well as smaller numbers of fin and humpback whales, citing a 1946 treaty that permits killing the giant mammals for research.

Koji Tsuruoka, Japan's chief lawyer before the court, said Japan was "deeply disappointed" by the ruling, but would comply with it.

Whaling was once widespread around the world, but Japan is now one of only three countries, alongside Iceland and Norway, that continue the practice.

Norway, the other main whaling nation, in 1993 shifted away from scientific whaling to "commercial" catches, where the meat is sold directly to consumers.

Norway set a quota of 1286 minke whales in the north Atlantic in last year's summer hunt, saying stocks were plentiful in the region. Fishermen rarely catch the full quota, partly because demand has sunk in recent years.

Iceland and Norway do not claim to be carrying out research, openly hunting whale meat for commercial purposes, meaning the court's ruling has no immediate consequences for them.

The Marlborough Express