Publication Details

Davis, R. A. (2007). Taking on Japanese whalers: the Humane Society International litigation. University of Tasmania Law Review, 24 (1), 78-86.


On 14 July 2006 the Full Federal Court declared that Humane Society International ('HSI') could commence proceedings against Japanese whalers for alleged violations of the Australian Whale Sanctuary in Antarctica. 1 The decision was a significant victory for the public interest organisation, which had originally been denied leave to serve originating process on the Japanese defendant on the grounds that the action could be contrary to Australia's national interests. 2 In its amended statement of claim3 HSI alleged that between February 2001 and March 2005, the respondent Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha Ltd ('Kyodo') had unlawfully killed or interfered with around 385 Antarctic Minke whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary located off the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory ('AAT'). HSI also gave particulars of a permit issued to Kyodo by the Japanese Government for an ongoing whale research program. This permit indicated that the killing of whales would continue. This note briefly examines the background to the litigation. It then goes on to consider the progress of the case through the Federal Court, highlighting the various factors that have attracted the Court's attention at each stage. It first considers the judgment of Allsop J, and his unusual invitation to the Australian Government to make submissions regarding aspects of the case. It then analyses the decision of the Appeal Court, concluding with a consideration of the case's broader Antarctic context and possible implications for environmental litigation more generally.

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