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Anti-Whalers To Snub Japan's Whaling Talks

File photo of the 2005 IWC conference.
by Hiroshi Hiyama
Tokyo (AFP) Feb 12, 2007
Japan this week hosts a meeting of members of the world whaling body to debate its future, but most key Western nations are boycotting talks which they see as a ploy to resume commercial whaling. The three-day conference starting Tuesday mirrors sharp differences within the International Whaling Commission (IWC) where leading pro-whaling nations including Japan have been making steady inroads.

Tokyo argues that whale meat is part of its culture and says the IWC ought to return to its original mandate of regulating commercial whaling.

Japan, which hunts more than 1,000 whales a year using a loophole that allows scientific research, says the Tokyo conference will look at ways to "normalise" the IWC and hold a calm debate on an emotionally charged issue.

"What we are trying to do is not to talk about Japanese policies, but to discuss ways to make talks at the IWC more efficient," said Hideaki Okada, an official at the Fisheries Agency.

"We have invited all member nations of the IWC. This will not be a charade put on by Japan. Our goal is clear. We want productive management of the marine resources that are available," he said.

But at least 26 nations in the 72-member body are shunning the meet, among them anti-whaling campaigners Australia, Britain and the United States.

The environmental group Greenpeace said Japan was trying to show its growing clout at the IWC, which in recent years has mushroomed to include nations with little history of whaling such as Cambodia and Mali.

"This is not about 'normalisation,' it's about commercialisation," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace Japan's campaign manager.

"What they're trying to do is to gather countries where they are putting some (aid) money to justify commercial whaling," Sato said. "This meeting is just to get a statement out before the next IWC."

The IWC holds its next annual meeting in May in Alaska, a year after its last turbulent conference, held in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis, led to a landmark victory for Japan.

That conference approved a resolution saying a moratorium on commercial whaling was no longer needed. But the statement was non-binding, as any policy change at the IWC requires a 75 percent majority.

The IWC in 1986 banned whaling, with Western nations arguing that the giant mammals were endangered and that the hunt was unnecessarily cruel.

Japan, however, has continued whaling through a loophole that allows nations to kill whales for research, with the meat going on sale.

Its annual expedition to the Antarctic has led to friction with Australia and New Zealand. Last week, militant activists threw acid on a Japanese whaling ship.

Norway defies the IWC moratorium altogether. Iceland last year went to the pro-whaling camp and joined Norway in pursuing commercial whaling.

Iceland's fisheries minister Einar Kristinn Guofinnsson criticised the boycott by anti-whaling nations.

"I cannot regard any nation as a democratic state if it is boycotting an important forum for dialogue," he told Japan's Nikkei Shimbun business daily.

He also pressed Japan to buy whale meat from Iceland, saying Tokyo "would lose a friendly ally" if it does not.

Anti-whaling activists say the glut of whale meat in Iceland and Japan proves hunting is not needed. Japan has been trying to find ways to encourage people to eat whale, including reintroducing it in school lunches.

"The Japanese government is trying to sell whale meat very hard. That shows that commercialising this is not going to be possible," said Greenpeace's Sato.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Japanese Whaling Ship In Clash With Eco-Activists
Sydney (SPX) Feb 13, 2007
A Japanese whaling ship issued a distress signal from Antarctic waters Monday and may be unable to stay at sea after colliding with a protest boat trying to save whales from slaughter, the two sides said. Japan swiftly accused the eco-activists of being "terrorists" and said they had attacked the Kaiko Maru, one of the whaling boats hounded by the conservation group in an ongoing game of nerves in the icy southern seas.

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