Whale Wars in Seattle: A U.S. Court Discusses Antarctic Whaling

By Timothy G. Nelson*

This March, a Seattle-based federal judge issued a decision dealing with the continued practice of whaling in Antarctic waters. The court’s ruling, arising from a dispute between whalers and the activists depicted on the TV show, “Whale Wars,” stopped short of declaring whaling to be a violation of international law, but nevertheless declared it to be against the public interest of the United States as reflected in U.S. marine environmental legislation. The court also highlighted the potential importance of a dispute concerning this issue between Australia and Japan, currently pending before the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”).

The International Ban on Commercial Whaling

The hunting of whales, once a major industry in several maritime states, became subject to international regulation in 1946, through the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (“ICRW”). By that treaty, which gained widespread adherence, an International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) was established, with power to set annual catch quotas for each member state. Continue reading