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.
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.
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.