Prime Minister Tony Abbott remains hopeful that delicately poised Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Tokyo will not be derailed by Australia's win in the International Court of Justice against ''scientific'' whaling.
A great day for whales thanks to Australia
Japan has been ordered to immediately end the killing of whales in the Antarctic after a UN court backed Australia's claim that the slaughter was unlawful. WARNING: Some people may find some of the images distressing.
Japan said it was ''deeply disappointed'' after the UN's International Court of Justice found Japan must cease its Southern Ocean whaling program immediately, but said it would abide by the decision.
The judgment was welcomed by Australia's three largest political parties and celebrated by anti-whaling activists Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.
Tokyo's agent at the court, Koji Tsuruoka, said: ''As a state that respects the rule of law, the order of international law and as a responsible member of the global community, Japan will abide by the decision of the court.''
But Mr Tsuruoka refused to discuss whether Japan would design a new research program in the hope of resuming whaling at a later date.
In a press conference in Perth on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said that Australia had a ''very strong relationship'' with Japan and that it was ''certainly much, much, much bigger than any disagreement we might have had about whaling''.
ICJ president Peter Tomka said the court concluded the scientific permits granted by Japan for its whaling program were not scientific research as defined under International Whaling Commission rules. The court unanimously found it had jurisdiction to hear the case, and by 12 votes to four found that special permits granted by Japan in connection with the program, JARPA II, did not fall within the IWC convention.
Former Labor environment minister Peter Garrett, who instigated the case in 2010, welcomed the ruling. ''This is the end of so-called scientific whaling, surely,'' Mr Garrett said. He described the decision as ''an incredible result''.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, who while in government led Australia's legal challenge in the Hague, said he was ''thrilled'' at the decision.
''This decision … can't but have some effect on whaling in other parts of the world,'' he said. ''It will add to pressure on … [the] small number of countries who continue to engage in whaling."
The Founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Paul Watson, says the court's decision justified the group's sometimes controversial actions at sea.
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''I am so pleased that after a decade of anti-whaling campaigns in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean, we won't have to go there again,'' he said from his home in Vermont in the US.
''We feel vindicated. This has always been an illegal whale hunt.''
Former Greens leader and director of Sea Shepherd Australia Bob Brown says the group was ready to switch focus to other preservation projects.
The decision comes with the whaling fleet under increased pressure from conservationist direct action that brought serious conflict to the far south - much of it in waters off the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Despite this pressure from Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, the whalers killed 10,439 minkes and 15 fin whales under scientific permit from the 1986 moratorium until the end of the 2013 season, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Last season's kill figure has not yet been released.
Established in 1945, the ICJ is the UN's highest judicial body and the only one of five principal UN bodies not located in New York. The ICJ's judgments are binding and cannot be appealed.
- with AFP and James Massola