22 June 2005

Japan's proposal to resume whaling voted down

Japan lashed out at anti-whaling nations on Tuesday after its proposal to resume limited commercial hunting was voted down by an international commission and its "scientific" harvesting heavily criticised.

Japan had sought the approval of the 66-member International Whaling Commission for a management scheme it said would promote sustainable commercial whaling, but critics said the plan was riddled with holes and would allow for more whales to be killed.

The proposal had little hope of being adopted because it takes a 75 percent majority of IWC states to approve major policy changes. It failed by 29 votes to 23 with five abstentions.

Pro-whaling states were also dealt a blow on the first day of the meeting on Monday when a Japanese proposal to change voting procedures to a secret ballot was narrowly defeated.

"The whole process has been a charade where anti-whaling nations have stalled implementation of an RMS (revised management scheme) for more than 10 years," said Minoru Morimoto, the head of Japan's delegation.

The IWC's pro-whaling lobby has a slim majority for the first time since a moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986 following the accession of three states - Gambia, Togo and Nauru - to the commission.

But the three were unable to vote because they had not yet paid their dues or their delegates had yet to arrive in Ulsan, a former whaling port.

Environmentalists fear that pro-whaling nations such as Japan and Norway may try to roll back conservation measures if they can swing a majority at the commission and critics accused Tokyo of delaying tactics.

"The pro-whale slaughtering nations are using every tactical method they can to slow down any substantive vote until the new members arrive," said Ian Campbell, Australia's environment minister. "It is becoming farcical."

Australia's hopes of proposing an early resolution criticising Japan's announcement that it plans to double its annual scientific catch of minke whales from 440 to 850 were scrapped due to proceedings Australia saw as slow.

Japan's well-flagged plan to dramatically expand its research programme also includes hunting 10 fin whales a year for the first two years, although it says it will not hunt humpbacks for another two years.

Australia, New Zeland and other anti-whaling nations have been highly critical of the plan and conservation groups said the programme is actual commercial whaling in the guise of science.

But any resolution on Japan's scientific whaling would have no impact on the programme as it is not regulated by the IWC.

Anti-whaling states say Japan exploits a loophole in the 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling to hunt the giant mammals in the guise of science, and that much of the whale meat ends up on store shelves and on the tables of gourmet restaurants.

"It is commercial whaling by any other name," said Leah Garces, campaigns director for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, while Conall O'Connell, the head of Australia's delegation called it "an outrage."

Source: www.iol.co.za


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