Whale hunt curb still illusive

2010-06-23 11:42

Nations have failed to reach a deal to curb whale hunts by Japan,

Norway and Iceland that kill hundreds of whales every year – and Japan blamed

anti-whaling nations for being intransigent.

The 88 nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) held

two days of intense closed-door talks on a proposal to ease the 25-year-old ban

on commercial whaling in exchange for smaller kills by the three countries that

claim exemptions to the moratorium on hunting for profit.

About 1 500 animals are killed each year by Japan, Norway and

Iceland. Japan, which kills the majority of whales, says its hunt is for

scientific research – but more whale meat and whale products end up in Japanese

restaurants than in laboratories.

Acting IWC chairperson Anthony Liverpool said in an open meeting

today: “Fundamental positions remained very much apart.”

Chief US delegate Monica Medina said: “After nearly three years of

discussions, it appears our discussions are at an impasse.”

Japanese whaling commissioner Yasue Funayama said her country had

offered major concessions to reach a compromise and blamed anti-whaling

countries that refused to accept the killing of a single animal: “We must rise

above politics and engage in a broader perspective.”

Anti-whaling countries sought to end Japan’s hunting forays into a

southern ocean whaling sanctuary, ban the international trade in whale meat and

to set firm quotas for the whaling nations for the next 10 years.

It was not clear what the meeting would do now, since it was

scheduled to continue until Friday. New Zealand Commissioner Geoffrey Palmer,

who chaired a 12-nation working group that has met six times over the last year,

suggested a year-long cooling-off period.

Some environmentalists have accused Japan of vote-buying, using

development aid money and personal favours to swing small, poorer nations to its

side in the whaling debate.

Liverpool, a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda and its ambassador

to Japan, has been quoted by a British paper as admitting that Japanese

interests have paid hotel bills for him and says he sees nothing “odd about


The whaling commission was created after World War II to conserve

and manage whale stocks. Tens of thousands of animals were killed each year

until 1986, when the IWC adopted the moratorium.

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