Japan’s Resumption of Commercial Whaling and Its Duty to Cooperate with the International Whaling Commission
35 J. Envtl. Law & Litigation, Forthcoming
42 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2019
Date Written: September 20, 2019
Japan has withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and has resumed commercial whaling. Although the IWC’s moratorium on commercial no longer applies directly to Japan, Japan must fulfill its duty to cooperate under customary international law and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by giving “due regard” to the rights of IWC members. This requires, for example, that Japan participate meaningfully in meetings of the IWC and the IWC Scientific Committee, submit data on whales struck and lost as well as whales caught as bycatch, and implement the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), the scientifically-vetted method for calculating sustainable catch limits. Moreover, to ensure its whaling is sustainable, Japan must prohibit whaling, at least until significant data gaps are filled in relation to the stocks that Japan hunts. Japan must also prepare a transboundary EIA prior to whaling. Despite these international law obligations, Japan has resumed commercial whaling without a scientifically-accepted understanding of the stock structure for sei and minke whales, without using the IWC’s scientifically-vetted algorithm for setting sustainable catch limits, and without preparing a transboundary EIA. Consequently, IWC members that are also UNCLOS Parties may vindicate their rights using the binding and compulsory dispute settlement provisions of UNCLOS.
Keywords: Japan, whaling, duty to cooperate, customary international law, UNCLOS
JEL Classification: K33, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation