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International legal experts urge action to end Japanese whaling 16.11.07

An international panel of independent legal experts convened in London has issued a detailed report challenging the legal status of Japan’s whaling operations, particularly the taking of endangered sei and humpback whales.

The expert panel also recommends actions to be taken against the government of Japan for its violations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Today’s report, dubbed the London Report on Illegal Whaling, comes as the government of Japan prepares to launch its whaling fleet into international waters later this week. Its dramatic findings add to a growing body of legal opinion sharply critical of Japan’s relentlessly expanding whaling operations. Since an international ban on commercial whaling was first imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1986, Japan has argued its ongoing whaling is conducted for “scientific” purposes.

The London Report finds Japan’s current and proposed takings of humpback and sei whales as well as other whale species “are for primarily commercial purposes” and “plainly constitute international trade”. Japan has previously announced it intends to kill more than 1,400 whales within the next year including 50 sei whales and 50 humpback whales, a species protected from commercial hunting for more than 40 years.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which commissioned the independent legal review, says the time has come for decisive action to end Japan’s expanding whaling programme.

“The world’s best legal minds have made the case. Japan’s whaling is not just cruel, it’s criminal. It is time for the international community to act to end this illegal activity,” said Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK.

Ambassador Alberto Szekely, an international law Professor who served as coordinator of the London Panel and related expert panels convened in Paris and Sydney last year, said: “Japan’s repeated assertion that its whaling activities are legal is incorrect and misleading. ‘Scientific whaling’ as conducted by Japan violates international law and should not be allowed to continue.”

Peter Shield

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