The United Nation's International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to stop its annual whale hunt in the Antarctic, rejecting Tokyo's argument that it is for scientific purposes.

Presiding Judge Peter Tomka read the court's ruling on the matter at the ICJ's historic headquarters at the Peace Palace in The Hague.

"Japan shall revoke any existant authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to Jarpa II (research programme) and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance to the programme," the ruling read.

Australia in 2010 brought Japan to the ICJ in an attempt to halt whale hunting in the Southern Ocean.

Canberra has said the practice is a thinly-disguised commercial exploit under cover of scientific research.

While Norway and Iceland have commercial whaling programmes in spite of a 1986 International Whaling Commission moratorium, Japan insists its programme is scientific, while admitting that the resulting meat ends up on plates back home.