Commercial Whaling Negotiations between 88 Nation Fails to Reach an Agreement

A group environmental activists and Japanese officials blamed each other as nations failed to obtain a deal to restrain whale hunting in Japan, Iceland, and Norway which kill about 1,500 whales every year.

The 88 nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) organized a two days of closed-door meetings in Agadir, Morocco, on a proposal to strengthen and revamp the 25-year-old ban on commercial whaling in exchange for smaller kills by the three countries which claim exemptions to the moratorium on killing for money.

Japan, primary responsible for the death of thousand whales, insists its hunt is for scientific research purposes, but according to the study conducted by various environmentalists groups more whale meat and products end up in a plate and souvenir shop than in laboratories.

A key sticking point happened to be that the agency declared the Southern Ocean south of Australia a whaling sanctuary in 1994 but Japanese ships hunt freely within the protected area because the agency has no enforcement powers to stop, or at least minimize the whaling operation of the Japanese.

Australia government already submitted a complaint against Japanese whaling at the International Court of Justice in the UN’s highest court, The Hague.

Anthony Liverpool, acting IWC chairman, declared an open meeting on Wednesday that “fundamental positions remained very much apart”, while chief US delegate Monica Medina said: “After nearly three years of discussions, it appears our discussions are at an impasse.”

According to Yasue Funayama, Japanese whaling commissioner, Japan had offered major concessions to attain a compromise and blamed anti-whaling countries which refused to accept the killing of a single animal. “We must rise above politics and engage in a broader perspective,” she said.

Anti-whaling countries are in quest to put an end to Japan’s hunting forays within the Southern Ocean protected area, ban the international trade in whale meat and to set concrete rules and provisions for the whaling nations for the next decades.

Australia and the federation of Latin American countries stand still on zero whaling in the entire Antarctic Ocean, said a delegate from a non-whaling country. Iceland also refused to consider any deal to constrain the international sale of whale products, he added.

Environmentalists accused Japan for the sad breakdown, with Wendy Elliott of wildlife charity WWF saying: “If Japan had agreed to a phase out in the Southern Ocean, there would have been a good chance.” However, the International Fund for Animal Welfare headed by Patrick Ramage expressed relief that the ban was not lifted, he added: “Had it been done here, this deal would have lived in infamy.”

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Mark Whysall

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