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Navin75/Flickr, Australian Marine Conservation Society, ANU

Change Agents: Darren Kindleysides and Don Rothwell on how Australia briefly stopped Japanese whaling

The anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd has called a halt to its famous missions tracking the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean.

For the past 12 years the group’s boats have engaged in annual high-seas battles with vessels carrying out Japan’s self-described scientific whaling program. But Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has admitted that Japan’s use of military-grade technology such as real-time satellite tracking has left the activists unable to keep up.

Watson also criticised the Australian government over its response to Japan’s whaling program, despite a global ban on most whaling.

Read more: Murky waters: why is Japan still whaling in the Southern Ocean?

Scientific whaling is technically allowed under the International Whaling Commission’s treaty, and countries such as Japan have the right to decide for themselves what constitutes “scientific” in this context.

Australia is not the only government to be accused of reluctance to stand up to Japan. But in 2014, Japan’s pretext for whaling was finally discredited when Australia won a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. And, for a year, the Japanese whaling stopped.

This episode of Change Agents tells the back story of how that happened through the eyes of two key players, ANU legal academic Don Rothwell and Darren Kindleysides, who was then campaign manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare. They worked on a strategy to provide both the legal argument and the political will for Australia to take on Japan in the courts.

Change Agents is a collaboration between The Conversation and the Swinburne Business School and Swinburne University’s Department of Media and Communication. It is presented by Andrew Dodd and produced by Samuel Wilson and Andrew Dodd, with production by Heather Jarvis.

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