A panel of judges in The Hague has ruled that Japan's whaling activities are not for scientific purposes and has ordered a temporary halt to whale hunts in the Antarctic.
By a majority of eight to four, the International Court of Justice ruled Monday that Japan has not justified the number of minke whales it takes under its program.
The court ordered Tokyo to stop issuing whaling permits and revoke permits it has already issued to catch and kill whales for research purposes.
Commercial whaling is banned under an international treaty, but Japan continues to hunt using a loophole that allows whaling in the name of science -- a practice condemned by environmentalists and anti-whaling nations.
Australia brought the case before the UN court in 2010, arguing that Japan was engaged in pure, commercial whaling.