Nations divided over lifting ban on whale hunt

Nations divided over lifting ban on whale hunt (AP)
In this photo taken on June 17, 2010, whale meat restaurant Magonotei manager Tomohiro Akio slices a chunk of lean meat of a whale caught in the Antarctic as he prepares for a sashimi dish at its kitchen in Tokyo Thursday, June 17, 2010. Makoto Ito, managing director of Kyodo Senpaku Co., the company that runs the annual Antarctic hunt, said he didn't think they should be ended, because "we need to collect more data." Japan's refusal to give up its Antarctic hunt puzzles even observers within the country. Current coastal catches, also conducted for scientific research, provide fresher meat and are cheaper. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

(AP) -- A showdown looms this week over the 25-year ban on commercial whaling: Should it be eased, which might mean fewer whales are killed? Or should it remain - leaving Japan, Norway and Iceland to hunt down as many whales as they want?

The International Whaling Commission begins a five-day meeting Monday in Morocco's resort of Agadir - arguably its most important gathering since 1986, when a moratorium on halted the factory-style slaughter of tens of thousands of animals every year.

A compromise that would suspend the whaling ban has been drafted by the agency's chairman, but it's an unhappy option for nations that abhor whaling. The deal would legitimize commercial hunting in exchange for a drop in the number of actually killed by those claiming exemptions to the ban - Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The proposal, the agency says, would end the wildcat whaling that still kills up to 2,000 a year, including species on the verge of extinction. Japan's unrestricted whale hunt, allegedly for "scientific research," currently sends more whale meat to sushi bars than laboratories.

Since the ban took place, about 33,600 whales have been killed, according to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington.

The 88-nation whaling commission also hopes to dispel what its chairman calls an "atmosphere of confrontation and mistrust" that has frozen the agency's work for decades, and to reaffirm its relevance as a regulatory force.

The IWC "is fundamentally broken and must be fixed," the chief U.S. negotiator, Monica Median, told reporters earlier this year.

IWC Chairman Cristian Maquieira published his proposal in April to bring the three whaling nations back under the agency's control by allowing them to hunt commercially under closely monitored quotas.

Advocates say 5,000 whales will be saved over the 10-year life of the deal. Opponents question that claim, and say the proposal would legitimize hunting for profit and throw a lifeline to a dying industry that has constant confrontations with environmental groups on the world's oceans.

"The points of view differ a lot," Marie-Josee Jenniskens, head of the Netherlands' delegation, told The Associated Press. "I wish I could be more optimistic."

She said Maquieira's original compromise was being modified and a new draft was likely to be unveiled Monday. Maquieira himself is not attending due to illness, and the convention will be chaired by his deputy, Anthony Liverpool of Antigua and Barbuda.

Maquieira says his proposal tried to strike "a delicate balance" that admittedly will satisfy no one.

Under it, Japan would be allowed to hunt in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, officially declared a no-go zone in 1994 but where Japanese whaling ships haul most of their catch now anyway. The draft says the quotas would involve a "significant reduction" from today's levels but leaves open the question whether whale meat and other whale products can be traded internationally.

Objections to the draft have been swift and firm.

"The Australian government cannot accept this proposal as it currently stands," Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett said. Australia has already launched a complaint against Japanese whaling at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the U.N.'s highest court.

The German parliament urged its government to reject the proposal, saying "we can only guess at how fatal the consequences will be for marine ecosystems."

The United States also has voiced reservations, especially over the number of whales the three countries will be allowed to hunt.

Conservationists say the catch quotas must be based on scientific evaluations of whale populations rather than on recent catches.

"The quotas have more to do with political science than biological science," said Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Ramage is worried that the U.S. is too anxious for a deal, partly because Washington fears Japan could veto the approved catch by Alaskan Inuit hunters, which falls under a clause allowing Aboriginal subsistence whaling.

"There has been decades of steady progress in conservation. All of that is threatened with reversal by a politically expedient proposal that some governments are trying to rush through," Ramage said.

Several environmental groups said they would favor a deal only if endangered species are excluded from the hunt, whaling is stopped in the Antarctic sanctuary, trade in whale products is outlawed and no country is exempt.

"If we leave Agadir with no decision, that is not a victory, because we are not doing what the whales need," said Susan Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group.

WWF said a compromise was clearly needed to end the exemptions claimed by the three nations and bring whaling back under the commission's control.

"But we will not support a compromise at any cost," said WWF's Wendy Elliott. "The IWC is at a crossroads, and the integrity of the commission is in the balance."

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Jun 20, 2010
After nearly 25 years it would be totally out of order and pathetically stupid to allow one single Whale to be killed for any reason under a resumption of Whale hunting. We have seen the Japanese strut around like they own the oceans and totally disregard the moratorium. Their scientific slaughter is nothing like scientific in any way shape or form. The nearest the Whale meat comes to being treated to scientific examination is in a quality control laboratory environment. You don't need to kill a Whale to conduct scientific research on it. Once dead it is just so much organic matter. How can they say its scientific research when the meat is stripped and stored within a few hours of being hauled aboard the factory ship? Who do they think we are to take their lies without explanation? They are insulting the rest of the world and the only way they will stop the slaughter is if their country is blockaded and a trade ban on all Japanese products is initiated.

Jun 20, 2010
There have been accusations too that Japan is attempting to buy favorable votes from some member nations hard up for cash in these tough economic times. Let's hope that is not the case.

Jun 20, 2010
Couldn't the Australian goverment just take a more defensive stance, and just defend the regions with military forces? The destruction of a single Japanese whaling ship, whilst it would be an international incident, would be enough to stop a lot!!!
And would perhaps show the seriousness of the entire thing...

Jun 21, 2010
Whaling should be completely banned world wide. Japan has been getting away with it by calling it scientific research, but then sells it for profit. Any meat, oil, or any other part of whales should not be allowed to be sold period. It's like clubbing baby seals to count their eye color for research and then being allowed to sell their fur. This needs to be a world wide ban with no countries being exempt.

Jun 21, 2010
This is a step forward and should help regulate the amount of whales be hunted. If it is seasonal then the whalers would be obligated to follow the season and guidelines. Granted people go outside of the guidelines but with proper set up at ports in which the ships arrive they could be inspected to determine if they are in the guidelines for whaling. Face it they are going to be hunted regardless of whether it is banned or not so why not regulate when and how many are hunted.

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