"The check is in the mail" usually is cited as the most common lie. If so, Japanese whaling is for research must run a close second.

Monday, the International Court of Justice fatally harpooned Japan's claim that its whaling fleet's annual hunt of 850 minke whales in Antarctic waters furthers science.

The court is an arm of the United Nations that adjudicates disputes between nations. It's decisions are binding among participating nations and cannot be appealed.

In this case, brought against Japan by Australia, the court found that Japan had not shown that the Antarctic whale hunt was research-based. Research is the sole exemption from the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on whale hunts, which has been in place since 1986.

Japan claimed its hunt was research meant to show that whaling can be sustainable, yet it did not conduct the hunt in a scientific manner. The "research" yielded just two peer-reviewed scientific papers since 2005, and the vast majority of the harvested whale meat ended up in the commercial marketplace.

Since Japan agreed to abide by the decision, the ruling would appear to end Tokyo's use of research as cover for a commercial whale hunt. It's a major victory for conservation that leaves only Norway and Iceland conducting whaling under the guise of research.

The ruling will further aid the recovery of whale populations and, ideally, help convince the few remaining holdouts to join the moratorium.