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Environment

Delegates to IWC say compromise on whaling ban doomed to fail

Hopes to find a compromise on how to reduce global whale hunting are falling, and delegates at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco are looking at who is to blame.

A whale

Iceland, Norway and Japan killed 1,500 whales last season

Halfway through the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Agadir, Morocco, representatives are saying pro- and anti-whaling advocates have found no common ground.

The conference, which began on Monday, is meant to discuss a proposal by the chair of the commission to suspend a 24-year-old ban on commercial whaling and replace it with an agreement to introduce quotas for countries that continue to hunt.

At the center of the debate are Iceland, Norway and Japan, all of which claim legal exemptions to the ban and collectively hunted 1,500 whales in the 2008-2009 season.

Representatives from around the world expressed extreme pessimism after the first two days of closed-door discussions, with the German delegate calling the proposal a "dead letter" and the US delegate saying the process "lacked political maturity."

Opening of the whaling convention

Delegates expect the decision to be put off for a year

Delay nearly certain

While the convention officially runs until Friday, several delegates have said the most likely outcome would be to put off a vote on the proposal until the IWC reconvenes next year.

"You have to put this document aside for the moment," Brazilian negotiator Fabio Pitaluga told the IWC chairman Wednesday morning. "We need a pause."

Both sides of the whaling debate offered their opinions of who was to blame for the deadlock, with Norwegian commissioner Karsten Klepsvik saying: "Those who are against whaling seem to be willing to accept nothing but nil (quotas), and we cannot accept that."

A spokesman for the Japanese delegation placed the blame on conservationist groups and countries, saying they have spread misinformation to manipulate public opinion.

"Japan has compromised," he said. "Anti-whaling countries have offered nothing. If this process is going to survive, it requires compromise from both sides."

A dead whale with Japanese children observing

Japan is one of the nations claiming exemption to the whaling ban

Scientists support ban

A group of more than 200 scientists presented the IWC with a petition urging it to maintain the commercial whaling ban, saying it was necessary to ensure the survival of vulnerable species whose populations have been decimated by over-hunting.

"The IWC must not undermine the achievements of the last few decades by again endorsing commercial whaling," the petition said. "There is no evidence that any of the few populations and species known to be increasing have reached, or are anywhere near, the levels that might justify non-zero catch limits."

Japan's claim for exemption to the whaling ban is for scientific research, but the scientists charged that conserving whale populations was far more important and that commercial whaling "meets no essential human need." They added that because the hunted whales live long lives and breed very slowly, they are very difficult to monitor.

Apart from the whaling ban, the conference is also to hear arguments by the Danish delegation that Greenland be permitted to broaden its hunt to include 10 humpback whales per year.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP/AP/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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