Policy ForumSCIENCE AND LAW

Applying scientific principles in international law on whaling

Science  05 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6201, pp. 1125-1126
DOI: 10.1126/science.1254616

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Summary

In March 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, ruled that a Japanese whaling program in the Antarctic, ostensibly for scientific purposes, was not sufficiently research-oriented and thus was illegal (1). The ICJ's critical assessment represents the first time that scientific whaling has been reviewed by an authoritative body outside the International Whaling Commission (IWC). With Japan considering a replacement program, and the IWC meeting later this month, we discuss minimum realistic actions the IWC should take in response to the ICJ judgment. More broadly, we believe the approach used by the ICJ in reaching its judgment provides a precedent for how arbitrators might assess scientific principles when resolving complex technical disputes.

  • The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian government on any of the issues raised.