Japan thumbed its nose at the world - and the rule of law - when its whaling fleet departed earlier this week for the Antarctic with a self-issued quota to kill 333 minke whales per year for the next 12 years under the guise of "scientific research."
Japan's resumption of its so-called "scientific whaling" comes just one year after the world's highest court - the International Court of Justice (ICJ) - ruled that Japan's previous "scientific whaling" program was illegal. Until the ICJ put a stop to this whaling workaround, Japan had been using the excuse of "scientific research" to justify the killing of over 13,000 whales since the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling in 1986.
But Japan is up to its old shenanigans, this time not only flouting the IWC's ban on commercial whaling but also denouncing the ICJ's jurisdiction (claiming the UN World Court somehow doesn't have jurisdiction over global ocean resources). Japan's move also ignores a resolution passed by the IWC in 2014 that requires parties to obtain IWC approval before conducting any lethal scientific research. (Japan submitted a new research whaling proposal to the IWC, but an IWC expert panel of scientists concluded it did not justify the need to kill more whales.)
Japan's unilateral move has prompted international outrage.
Top officials in Australia and New Zealand have strongly condemned Japan's resumption of scientific whaling. Just last month, an Australian court fined the Japanese company behind whaling $1 million (AUS) for breaching a court order to stop killing whales. The Green Party in Australia is now calling on the government to deny future submarine contracts with Japan if it continues whaling.
And even North Korea - one of the world's most severe dictatorships - has condemned Japan's "black-hearted" whaling as "a criminal act that is depleting the Earth's precious whale stock."
It's time for the United States to flex its diplomatic and economic muscles as well.
Although the U.S. Commissioner to the IWC issued a statement expressing "disappointment" in Japan's decision to resume whaling, we must do more. The United States cannot sit on the sidelines while Japan flouts international law - and kills another 4,000 whales over the next 12 years.
In the past, the United States has played a major role in whale conservation. Please join me in urging President Obama to demonstrate that leadership now.
Click here to stop Japan's illegal whaling and save the whales.