The four-day meeting in Anchorage will consider, among others, a proposed renewal of whaling quotas for indigenous hunters, such as Alaska natives in 10 coastal villages.
The proposed subsistence renewal for Alaskan natives would keep the quota at 260 bowhead whales through 2012, a plan which has US backing.
International Whaling Commission (IWC) founded 1946 to regulate and protect whales, which had been hunted to the brink of extinction
Blanket moratorium on commercial whaling introduced 1986
Three IWC members hunt whales in significant numbers: Japan, Norway and Iceland
An exemption to the moratorium allows indigenous communities in places like Greenland and Alaska to hunt whales.
Significant policy changes such as lifting moratorium require a 75 per cent majority vote in IWC
Japan has requested a similar arrangement under the same rules, offering to shelve plans to hunt humpback whales in exchange for coastal communities in four Japanese towns being granted quota-based "community whaling" status.
"We might come up with a package that will satisfy all member countries but we like to see acceptance of our coastal whaling proposal," saod Joji Morishita, a member of the Japanese delegation to the IWC.
But Japan's pitch was flatly rejected by anti-whaling nations.
"This is not aboriginal subsistence whaling," said Gert Lindemann, a German delegate, adding that the two categories "must not be blurred, but must remain clearly separate."
Tokyo has been pushing the commission to consider the management rather than an outright ban of commercial whaling.
Last year it won a non-binding resolution in favour of a return to commercial whaling, but fell well short of the 75 per cent majority needed to overturn the moratorium.
This year anti-whaling nations are said to retain a slim majority.
The moratorium on commercial whaling was enacted in 1986 to protect several vulnerable species.
|Japan currently hunts about 1,000 |
minke whales annually [ICR]
At present Japan continues to hunt more than 1,000 whales a year under a scientific research programme which activists say is a backdoor means of selling the meat.
Japan's plan to hunt 50 humpback whales, an endangered species, recently drew from Australia and New Zealand, and environmental groups.
Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation, said Tokyo was willing to hear out the critics but that "just asking Japan to stop is not going to do it".
"We're prepared to listen to everybody's point of view, to ways where through dialogue everyone can go home happy."