Conceptions and (mis)conceptions of science in international treaties; the ICJ whaling case in context

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The recent judgment in the International Court of Justice case Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) determined that Japanese ‘special permit’ whaling in the Southern Ocean was not ‘for the purposes of scientific research’. This is the only exemption permitted under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling’s current moratorium on commercial whaling. The Court made its determination by characterising the Japanese research program as a scientific program, but failing to define what scientific research actually was or was not. This paper presents the background to the decision, and challenges the reasoning of the Court and its standard of review test. It concludes that the Court failed to take the opportunity to offer a clear determination to states on their legal–scientific obligations within international law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Yearbook of Polar Law
EditorsGudmundur Alfredsson, Timo Koivurova
Place of PublicationThe Netherlands
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9789004288904
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameYearbook of Polar Law
ISSN (Print)1876-8814
ISSN (Electronic)2211-6427


  • law
  • international law
  • whaling
  • japan
  • Australia
  • International Court of Justice
  • ICJ
  • rule of law
  • treaties

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