Anti-Whaling States Aim for Sanctuaries, Hunt Curbs
ULSAN - Anti-whaling countries will try to thwart a Japanese-led attempt on Wednesday to abolish a whale sanctuary in the southern seas and condemn Tokyo for continuing to catch the huge mammals in the name of science.
Japan has already suffered two setbacks at this year's meeting of the 66-member International Whaling Commission in Ulsan, a former whaling port in the southeast of the Korean peninsula.
Japan is proposing abolishing a "Southern Ocean Sanctuary" set up by the commission to protect whales in southern seas from commercial whaling. Japan can still conduct its scientific whaling in those seas because of loopholes in the rules.
Conservationists say the southern oceans are an essential breeding and feeding ground for endangered whale species. Some also want to vote to condemn Japan's practice of catching whales for scientific research because much of the meat ends up in restaurants or on shop shelves rather than in laboratories.
"There is no scientific justification whatsoever for lethal, scientific whaling," said Richard Cowan, Britain's delegate to the meeting.
Whaling states such as Japan and Norway say whaling is a cherished part of their culture.
"Extreme anti-whaling states will use this as an opportunity for political gain, and this is not good for the organisation," said Joji Morishita, an alternate commissioner from Japan's delegation. "They do not want whaling under any conditions, and that is very sad."
Yet any major shift through Wednesday's voting seems unlikely because the commission is nearly evenly divided and it takes a three-quarters majority to approve any policy change.
But the underlying resolutions from Japan and anti-whaling nations are likely to pass because they need a simple majority.
TOO MUCH CONSERVATION, SAYS JAPAN
On the first day of the meeting on Monday, Japan set out plans to double the number of whales it catches under its scientific whaling programme.
On Tuesday, Japan lost a vote on its proposal to resume commercial whaling under regulations it advocated and on Monday Japan's proposal to change voting at the commission to secret ballots was defeated by a three-vote margin.
The north Asian country has argued the commission is focusing too much on conservation and not enough on its original mission of regulating commercial whaling.
Japan's well-flagged plan to expand its research programme included nearly doubling its annual catch of minke whales from 440 and eventually hunting 50 fin and humpback whales a year -- two types of whales conservationists say are threatened.
Anti-whaling states, such as Australia and New Zealand, say Japan exploits a loophole in the 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling to hunt the giant mammals.
New Zealand, for example, has a thriving tourist industry built in part around sea trips to spot whales.
An Australian resolution that may come up for a vote on Wednesday urges Japan to withdraw its proposal to expand its scientific whaling or revise it to ensure that any scientific data it needs is obtained by non-lethal means.
And far from abolishing a sanctuary as Japan advocates, some Latin American countries and South Africa are looking to set up a further South Atlantic sanctuary to prohibit commercial whaling.
Story by Jon Herskovitz
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE