CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia expects the International Court of Justice will outlaw Japanese whaling in the Antarctic before the next whale hunting season begins in January.
Australia's case against Japan will begin in the United Nations court in The Hague on Wednesday.
Australian Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said on Sunday he expects to win before the next southern hemisphere summer. The whaling fleet generally leaves Japan each December to begin harpooning whales in January in the Antarctic Ocean, where Australia declared a whale sanctuary in 1999.
"We're hopeful of a decision from the International Court of Justice before the end of the year and certainly before the start of the next whale hunting season that's part of Japan's so-called scientific whaling program," Dreyfus told reporters.
"We want commercial whaling to stop and that includes the so-called scientific whaling program that Japan has been carrying on for many years," he added.
Commercial whaling has been banned around the world since 1986 under an International Whaling Commission moratorium. But various exceptions are allowed, including whaling for scientific research which Japan says is the motivation for its annual hunt. Whales slaughtered for research can legally be sold as food, which Japan does.
Dreyfus said Japan had killed more than 10,000 whales since the moratorium was declared.
Australia initiated proceedings against Japan in The Hague court in 2010 alleging the "large-scale" whaling program breached Japan's international obligations, including for the preservation of marine mammals and the marine environment.
Australia wants the court to declare that Japan is in breach of various international obligations and to withdraw all whaling permits from its fleet.
Dreyfus, who will represent Australia at The Hague, said the written submissions already made to the court by Japan, Australia and New Zealand — which supports the Australian case — would be made public once the hearing started.
Don Rothwell, an Australian National University expert on international law in relation to whaling who has advised the Australian government, said Australia's case would be difficult to make. Australia will argue that Japan's whaling is commercial, is not scientific, is conducted within a whale sanctuary and is in breach of conventions on biological diversity as well as endangered species.
"If it was an easy case to make, previous Australian governments would have no doubt explored these options," Rothwell told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
"The arguments that Australia will be making are ones that have never before been litigated or decided before by any international court, let alone the International Court of Justice," he added.
Rather than end whaling, the court could potentially decide how many whales Japan could take for legitimate scientific research reasons, Rothwell said.