The International Whaling Commission has resoundingly rejected a proposal to end its almost two-decade-old ban on commercial whaling, dealing a blow to Japan and other pro-whaling nations that say stocks of some species have recovered enough to allow limited hunts, reports Associated Press. 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, says Reuters. There were five abstentions, including countries such as Pacific Island nation Kiribati that have voted with Japan on other issues at the annual meeting. Japan maintains that whaling is a national tradition and a vital part of its food culture. Japan hunts whales for what it calls scientific research. In all, whaling nations are expected to kill more than 1,550 of the mammals this year. Australia is claiming a diplomatic victory, writes ABC. The Environment Minister Ian Campbell said “It's a huge win for whales, it's a huge win for an Australian team that's worked really hard over the last couple of months with incredible support from the Australian people." IWC banned commercial hunts in 1986.