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Whales

International Whaling Commission debates the fate of world's remaining whales

Over 80 nations have gathered in Slovenia for the biennial International Whaling Commission meeting. Japan's controversial return to its "scientific" whale hunts and a possible whale sanctuary will likely top the docket.

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) convened in Portoroz, Slovenia on Monday to discuss a multitude of threats facing the world's remaining whale populations.

The talks are likely to be contentious, as the IWC's members from 88 nations are divided along pro- and anti-hunting lines. Pro-whaling nations Japan, Norway and Iceland are typically pitted against a majority of the other countries at the IWC meetings.

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Currently, the commission allows nations to catch whales with an aboriginal subsistence whaling license. Japan launches whale hunts for scientific purposes - setting its own quotas - while Norway and Iceland conduct commercial hunts under legal loopholes.

In 2014, the United Nations' International Court of Justice ruled that Japan was abusing the scientific exemption. Tokyo cancelled its 2014/15 whale hunt, but resumed it the following year - catching over 300 animals.

The IWC meetings attempt to balance issues of national sovereignty, culture, and subsistence rights with nature conservation and issues of animal cruelty.

"Whaling has no place in the 21st century. It's outdated, it's thoroughly inhumane," Claire Bass of Humane Society International told news agency AFP ahead of the IWC meeting.

Bass pointed out that a lack of humane ways to kill whales at sea leads to long, drawn-out deaths from wounds inflicted by harpoons and explosive tips.

The nations are also likely to debate a proposal from Brazil, Argentina, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay to create a large South Atlantic whale sanctuary. The nations rake in a great deal of money from whale-watching tourism and the bid has failed at several previous meetings.

The biennial meeting will run for five days and marks the 70th anniversary of the commission's founding. The summit also marks the 30th anniversary of a whaling moratorium which is estimated to have saved tens of thousands of whales.

rs/kl   (AFP, dpa)

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