Decision on Australia's whaling case against Japan due at end of March

The outcome of Australia's legal bid to end Japanese Antarctic whaling is to be announced at the end of this month.

The International Court of Justice said it would deliver its judgment in The Hague on March 31 on Australia's claim that the hunt is not a scientific program, but is outlawed commercial whaling.

The case begun by the first Rudd government in 2010 has been backed by the Coalition.

When it was argued last July, then attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus, asked the court to make orders to bring the whaling to an end because the large-scale killing of whales was commercial, and outside the provisions of the International Whaling Commission's scientific permit clause.

Japan said the whaling had always been within IWC rules, which in article eight clearly gives countries the right to issue scientific permits under their own terms.

Japan's counsel, Vaughan Lowe, QC, said there might be differences among scientists about Japan's whaling, but: ''The court . . . can no more impose a line separating science from non-science, than it could decide what is, or is not, art.''

Neither side asked for anything less than full victory, and the ICJ issued a reminder of its power in its statement late on Tuesday.

''It is recalled that the judgments of the Court have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned,'' the statement said.

The judgment will likely come with the conflict in the Southern Ocean between whalers and Sea Shepherd activists over for this season. The Japanese whaling fleet usually ends its hunt by late March.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said another monitoring flight of the whaling conflict was flown aboard the Australian government's A319 Airbus last Sunday.

''The flight observed vessels from both the Japanese whaling fleet and the Sea Shepherd protest fleet,'' Mr Hunt said in a statement.

''No whaling activities, nor any evidence of recent activity, were observed during this monitoring mission.''

The statement did not disclose the positions of the fleet, but according to Sea Shepherd at the time they were in the Ross Sea.

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The story Decision on Australia's whaling case against Japan due at end of March first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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