Funchal, Portugal (AFP) June 24, 2009
International Whaling Commission members agreed Wednesday to extend negotiations over the disputed hunting of the marine mammals for a year, avoiding a disastrous split in the group.
Spokeswoman Jemma Miller said the IWC, which regulates world whaling between hunters and conservationists, recognised that it "is at a crossroads beset by fundamental disagreements as to its nature and purpose."
By consensus the 85-nation IWC agreed to reconstitute a working group set up last year which would "intensify its efforts to conclude a package or packages" by the 2010 IWC conference "at the latest," Miller said at the meeting held on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
IWC chairman William Hogarth supported the call for more consultations.
"There is a will, now we have to find the way. If in 2010 we haven't had any progress, set a course and made some changes, there will be no more delays," he said.
Whales are protected by a moratorium on hunting dating back to 1986 with some exceptions limited by quota.
Regardless of the moratorium, almost 40,000 whales have been killed worldwide since 1985 by countries which refuse to sign up to the IWC treaty, or use loopholes allowing scientific or "lethal" research, or maintaining "aboriginal" or subsistence hunting.
However, some members voiced reservations about more talks, warning that "we're not writing a blank cheque for endless consultations," said Australian Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, a key opponent of the scientific whale hunting practiced by Japan.
The main stumbling block in the negotiations is a proposal to let Japan resume commercial whaling off its coast in exchange for a cut in its scientific whaling in the Antarctic.
Japan, which says whaling is part of its culture, kills more than 1,000 whales a year through a loophole in the treaty that allows the ocean giants to be killed for research, although the meat still ends up on dinner tables.
The Japanese delegate to the conference defended his nation's position.
"We are not asking other countries to eat whale, but to agree to disagree," said Yoshimasa Hayashi.
A delegate from New Zealand warned that unless an agreement is reached by 2010 the whaling organisation is in trouble. "If we fail, the IWC will die," he told the meeting.
Iceland, looking to join the European Union, has significantly raised its self-imposed quotas for this year in a move condemned by countries including Britain, France, Germany and the United States.
Denmark on Tuesday officially requested permission from the IWC to resume hunting humpback whales off Greenland, with a quota of 10 per year for the 2010-2012 period, in a move that has angered environmentalists.
The hunting would be carried out under so-called "aboriginal" or subsistence hunting to support local communities, but opponents say it is unnecessary.
Conservationists also were sceptical about another round of IWC negotiations.
"There has been a year of talking already and no evidence from the new proposal that there will be anything more than talking for another year," said Sara Holden, Greenpeace International's whales campaign coordinator.
Meanwhile, a Norwegian fisheries organisation said Wednesday that Norway's whalers had suspended their hunt mid-season this year with less than half a government quota of 885 whales killed because demand was saturated.
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Funchal, Portugal (AFP) June 22, 2009
The organisation that regulates world whaling opened a crucial conference on Monday with leaders seeking to avoid a disastrous split over hunting the marine mammals. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference on the Portuguese island of Madeira faces demands to resume the hunting of whales, protected by a moratorium dating back to 1986 with some exceptions limited by quota. ... read more
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