1979: Australia’s Fraser government banned whaling.
1982: The world’s nations banded together to stop commercial whaling by voting for a moratorium at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Australia and AMCS were part of this movement.
1986: The global whaling ban came into effect.
However, deep divides between pro-whaling nations like Japan, Iceland and Norway and anti-whaling countries like Australia, the UK and Brazil, continued to challenge the IWC. Defying the moratorium, countries continued industrial whaling under “reservations” or under the pretence of “scientific whaling”.
2010: The IWC reached crisis point and the meeting came perilously close to approving a return to commercial whaling. AMCS was part of the international negotiations that fought off the disastrous compromise at the eleventh hour.
2013: Australia took Japan to the International Court of Justice. The momentous decision to take legal action took years of hard work campaigning behind the scenes, from AMCS and other conservation groups working with governments, lawyers and scientists to convince our leaders to take this case forward.
2014: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Japan’s Antarctic whaling program broke international law - ending Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean.
2015: Japan restarts lethal ‘research’ whaling under a new program to get around the ICJ’s ruling.
2016: At the 2016 IWC meeting, Australia led a landmark resolution approved by the 88 nations to narrow the loophole that allows nations to kill whales for scientific research. Although the IWC has tightened this loophole, it still remains. More than 15,000 whales have been hunted by Japan in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters under the guise of conducting research.
2018: Japan announced their departure from the IWC, turning their back on global conservation efforts. They were unable to lift the ban on whaling.
This was a significant moment because on one hand, it meant Japan’s whaling fleet won’t return to the Southern Ocean. On the other, it meant Japan would restart commercial whaling in their own waters where some of the most threatened minke whale populations live.
2019: Iceland did not hunt for any whales due to a decrease in demand for whale meat (both Norway and Iceland whale in Northern Hemisphere waters). Whaling is a dying industry – it is an outdated and cruel industry selling a product to a market that has all but disappeared.
AMCS and the International Fund for Animal Welfare released a legal opinion from an international law expert showing Japan’s commercial whaling opens the country to legal action. Japan’s whaling is out of step with the international community, and legal opinion shows it’s also out of step with international law.
Japan also announced its resumption of commercial whaling in 2019, with an initial catch limit set by the Japanese Fisheries Agency of 150 Bryde's whales and 25 sei whales.
2022: In 2022, there were five vessels engaged in whaling in Norway, catching a total of 118 minke whales. Welcome news came mid-2022 that the Reinefangst will give up whaling, a vessel owned by a former chair of the Norwegian Minke Whalers Association and a staunch defender of whaling.
Whaling is set to commence summer 2022 in Iceland, after a four year hiatus. This is despite media reports from earlier in the year that whaling will end in 2024, after the current licences expire in 2023.
Commercial whaling in Japan is now in its fourth year.
Australia must continue to be a global leader in whale conservation whilst populations slowly recover from decades of whaling and the threat of commercial whaling remains in the northern hemisphere. Accidental strikes, plastic pollution, ocean noise from seismic testing, entanglement in nets and, in parts of the northern hemisphere, commercial whaling still threaten our whales.
We must demand new whale sanctuaries and better conservation efforts to protect critical habitats and provide safe spaces for whales to breed and mature. To address the current threats facing our whales we must:
Get the latest news on whales and how to save our oceans.