Commercial whaling remains banned - International Whaling Commission

The International Whaling Commission decided to uphold an almost two-decade-old ban on commercial whaling, dealing a setback to Japan and its allies who favor a resumption, runs AP.

Japan lost a vote on its so-called revised management scheme by 29 to 23 with five states abstaining.

Japan and other pro-whaling nations in the group knew they had virtually no chance of garnering the votes needed to overturn the moratorium at this year's annual meeting running through Friday. But they had hoped to obtain a simple majority to back Japan's proposal for a nonbinding measure expressing support for limited commercial catches. That would have demonstrated that opinion among commission members has turned in favor of sanctioning commercial whale hunts.

The proposal was to involve monitors stationed on whaling fleets and testing of whales that were captured. Critics said the proposal had loopholes which would have made it easy to violate, reports BBC.

In 1986 the 66-member International Whaling Commission banned commercial hunts, handing environmentalists a major victory in protecting the species near extinction after centuries of whaling. Countries led by Australia and New Zealand reject that view. They advocate protecting whales and encouraging alternative ways of profiting from them, through tourism and whale-watching.

Japan says it must kill whales to study them. It then sells the meat, which is allowed under commission rules.

U.S. criticized the decision to expand the research hunts, saying scientific advances make it unnecessary to kill whales to study them. On Monday, Japan said it would more than double its annual research cull of minke whales to as many as 935 from 440 this year, extending a researching whaling program begun in 1987. Critics call it commercial whaling in disguise. Japan maintains that whaling is a national tradition and that eating meat from mammals forms a vital part of its food culture. Japan claims whale stocks have sufficiently recovered since 1986 to allow the resumption of limited hunts.

Norway holds the world's only commercial whaling season in defiance of the ban. Japan, Norway and other nations which advocate what they call "sustainable use" of whales, this year are expected to kill more than 1,550 of the mammals.

Some participants evidently were frustrated that debate was being stalled, reports AP; Brazil walked out of the closed meeting and accused pro-whaling countries of making long speeches on procedural issues.

"We just refuse to be taken hostage of rhetoric for unclear purposes," Brazil's representative Maria Teresa Mesquita Pessoa said.

A resumption of commercial whaling after a 19-year moratorium is considered unlikely. But if Japan obtained a simple majority backing its proposal for a non-binding measure supporting limited commercial catches, it might demonstrate that opinion among commission members had turned in favour of sanctioning commercial hunts, BBC believes.

As Reuters reminds, at last year's meeting in Italy, there was not enough support to pass a management scheme that would have ended the whaling moratorium, imposed in 1986.

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