One of the smallest species of baleen whales, growing to nearly nine metres long and a weight of about 10 tonnes.
The most abundant baleen whale species and are found in all the world’s oceans.
There are an estimated 800,000 worldwide.
The common minke and the Antarctic minke are distinguished by size and colour pattern differences.
There is also a dwarf minke species.
Feed primarily on krill and small fish and can gather in pods of hundreds of whales.
Pacific minkes reproduce year-round.
Japan has an International Whaling Committee permit to kill about 850 Antarctic minkes for ‘scientific research’.
According to the Australian Government, their conservation status is listed as of “least concern”.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has set dates for the hearing of Australia’s case against Japan over its whaling program. Three weeks in late June and early July have been set aside by the court in The Hague in the Netherlands to hear Australia’s claim that Japan is in breach of the international convention on whaling. New Zealand has intervened in the case to lend weight to the Australian argument. “The International Court of Justice … will hold public hearings in the case concerning whaling in the Antarctic, Australia versus Japan, from Wednesday 26 June,” the ICJ said in a statement on Thursday.
Australia’s lawyers will argue the case on the opening day, followed a week later by Japan, on July 2. A ruling in the matter however, may not be handed down for several months. In Sydney, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus welcomed the long-awaited opportunity to end Japan’s whaling program.
“Australia will now have its day in court to establish, once and for all, that Japan’s whaling hunt is not for scientific purposes and is against international law,” Mr Dreyfus said in a statement. “Australia wants this slaughter to end.” Australia took Japan to court in May 2010 alleging that “Japan’s continued pursuit” of a large-scale whaling hunt put the Asian nation in breach of international conventions and its obligation to preserve “marine mammals and the marine environment”. Canberra asked ICJ judges to order Japan to stop its whale research program, called JARPA II, the second phase of its whale hunt in Antarctica under a special permit.
“Australia requests the court to order that Japan cease implementation of JARPA II, revoke any authorisation, permits or licences [allowing whaling under the program],” it said. Australia also wants the ICJ to obtain guarantees from Tokyo that it will not undertake any further research until it conforms “to its obligations under international law”. Japan’s annual whale hunt has long drawn criticism from activists and foreign governments, but Tokyo defends the practice, saying eating whale is a culinary tradition.
Earlier this month, Japan said its whaling fleet caught 103 Antarctic minke whales during this year’s Antarctic hunt – the lowest catch since “research whaling” began in 1987. The Japanese minister in charge of the program blamed what he called “unforgivable sabotage” by the Sea Shepherd group for the outcome. Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke said last week the tally was “103 whales too many”. The ICJ, established in 1945, is the UN’s highest judicial body and settles disputes between states.
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