A meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Chile has hit a deadlock over proposals for new whale hunting rights and a proposed whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic.
On Tuesday the 80-nation IWC agreed to put off votes on the proposals, probably until next year.
The delay is designed to give a committee time to come up with a compromise plan to narrow the gulf between pro-whaling and anti-whaling nations.
Cristian Maquieira, head of the Chilean delegation to the meeting, said the agreement was an optimistic sign that differences could be overcome.
"Up to now, the commission was in a stalemate, it was very divided and polarized," Maquieira told AFP.
"Instead, here in Santiago we've had an initial agreement by all, conservationists and whalers alike, to see if we can narrow the gap and seek out common solutions."
Japan has warned it will consider pulling out of the IWC unless a 22-year ban on commercial whaling is lifted.
Maquieira said a working group comprising 20 countries would meet ahead of the ICW's 2009 meeting on the Portuguese island of Madeira to draw up a list of recommendations.
The list, the Chilean ambassador said, will deal with "the most controversial issues," including whaling for scientific or "lethal research" - a loophole Japan has been using to kill some 1,000 whales a year.
It will also examine proposals to set up an international whale reserve in the South Atlantic , which Japan strongly opposes.