International Court of Justice rules against Japanese whaling program

UCSC mathematical biologist Marc Mangel testified in a case challenging the legality under international law of Japan's controversial whaling program

Marc Mangel
Marc Mangel

In a judgment announced on Monday, March 31, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Japan to halt its whaling program in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, ruling that the program does not comply with the provisions of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

In the case concerning "Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening)," the government of Australia had challenged the legality of Japan's controversial Southern Ocean whaling program. The International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling has been in effect since 1986, but Japan has granted special permits under a provision that allows whales to be killed for "purposes of scientific research."

Between August 2010 and July 2013, Marc Mangel, distinguished research professor of mathematical biology at UC Santa Cruz, served as the independent scientific expert called by the Government of Australia. Mangel wrote three documents for the case (available online), in which he concluded that Japan's whaling program was a program of data collection but not for purposes of scientific research.

Mangel also testified in the at the ICJ in The Hague in summer 2013. His testimony, consisting of examination and cross-examination, can be found about an hour into the video of the proceedings.  

Japan has indicated that it will abide by the ICJ decision.

"This result was very gratifying," Mangel said. "It is clear that the judges carefully read what I wrote, listened to what I said, and thought deeply when preparing the judgment. It was a good day for science."

Mangel is director of the Center for Stock Assessment Research at UCSC. He has studied Antarctic krill in the Southern Ocean and served as a scientific adviser for the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission and the international Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.