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Talks to lift whaling ban collapse
Delegates at Morocco conference fail to reach deal on commercial hunting moratorium.
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2010 13:53 GMT
Japan justifies its whale-hunting industry by saying that it is for scientific research [AFP]

Negotiations to reintroduce commercial whaling have collapsed barely halfway into an international conference on the issue in Morocco.

Delegates at the five-day International Whaling Commission conference, which began on Monday in the resort town of Agadir, were expected to vote on whether to suspend a ban on commercial whaling.

But conference participants said on Wednesday that talks on replacing the moratorium had broken down and would be suspended for a year.

"The proposal on the table coming into the meeting is a dead letter," Gert Lindermann, the IWC Commissioner from Germany, told the AFP news agency.

"We have agreed that we need a period of 'cooling off' to find out if there is real readiness to look for a compromise."

Standoff in negotiations

A standoff in negotiations on whale hunting emerged earlier in the day, with pro-whaling nations accusing opponents of failing to make concessions.

Talks going into the third day on Wednesday appeared tense, with Japan, Norway and Iceland stating that pro-conservationists were not giving any ground.

Whale statistics



 There are about 1.5m whales worldwide

 Pollution, climate change, fishing and ships' sonar signals threaten their survival

  Whaling is the biggest threat

 Despite a 1986 ban 30,000 whales have been killed by Japan, Norway and Iceland under their home-grown quota system

 The Japanese fish at least 1000 threatened Minke whales a year

 Hundreds of endangered Sei whales are killed ever year

 Japan and Iceland together catch over 50 endangered fin whales annually 

 The notion posed by scientists that whales are intelligent and sentient beingsis not on the meeting agenda

A ban on whaling has been in place since 1986.

However, Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales using clauses and legal loopholes that permit the practice, such as Japan's justification of scientific research.

The negotiations in Morocco have been focused on replacing the ban with a closely monitored quota system for the three countries for 10 years.

Glenn Inwood, the spokesman for the Japanese delegation at the IWC, said in an interview that, "Japan has compromised ... anti-whaling countries have offered nothing".

"If this process is going to survive, it requires compromise from both sides," he said.

Japan is viewed by campaigners as key to the outcome of the meeting of the 88-member IWC.

The Asian nation has said that it is willing to give up opt-out clauses in the almost 60-year-old whaling convention, which have given Iceland and Norway the opportunity to continue whaling and be a member of the IWC.

It has additionally said it will allow international inspectors onto whaling vessels and supports the development of a DNA registry to facilitate inspections of whale meat products.

Inwood said that Japan had offered to halve its self-determined quota of whales hunted in the Southern Ocean.

He also praised efforts by other conservation nations, such as the US and New Zealand, to find a middle ground.

Pro-whaling nations have said that the proposed quota system, in which the number of whales permitted to be killed diminishes annually, is a ploy to outlaw the practice altogether after the system expires.

Stricter enforcement

During the 2008-2009 whaling season, Japan, Norway and Iceland harvested more than 1,500 of the marine mammals.

Anti-whaling campaigners have said that the draft quota system is a sell-out and that there should be stricter enforcement of the current ban instead.

"Any proposal that comes onto the floor of the commission that seeks to remove in effect the moratorium on commercial whaling ... in our view should not be adopted nor voted on," Peter Garrett, Australia's environment minister, said.

Australia, Germany, Britain and most Latin American countries have taken a hard line against the whaling nations on hunting in the Southern Ocean, which was declared a whale sanctuary in 1994, and trade.

Iceland is seen as unwilling to renege on the trade of whale.

Negotiations will also concentrate on the size of quotas and the species of whale to which they will apply.

The ban came into existence after some whaling species came close to extinction.

Source:
Agencies
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