The International Whaling Commission has approved a hunting quota of 207 kills per year for aboriginal Greenlanders. Meanwhile, several countries have criticized Iceland for its commercial whaling program.
Members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) voted in favor of Greenland's proposed whale hunting quota at a summit in Portoroz, Slovenia on Monday.
Valid from 2015 through 2018, the proposal will allow the country's aborigines to take 176 minke, 19 fin, 10 humpback and two bowhead whales per year. Critics of the quota argue that much of the meat meant for the local Inuit population would be sold off instead.
"More than 800 whales were condemned today just in the Greenland vote," Wendy Higgins of the Humane Society International (HIS) told the AFP news agency. The Animal Welfare Institute voiced concern that "the new IWC quota will give Greenland more whale meat than its native people need for nutritional subsistence and that the surplus will continue to be sold commercially, including to tourists."
At the IWC's last gathering in 2012, a similar bid for a larger Greenland quota was voted down.
Joint letter blasts Iceland
Despite an international moratorium on commercial whale hunting, aboriginal communities in North America, Russia, Greenland and the Caribbean nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines receive special quotas permitting them to hunt whales for meat.
Iceland, one of the IWC's 88 members, rejects the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. The EU, US and several other countries on Monday formally called on the government in Reykjavik to reconsider its commercial program.
"We … wish to express our strong opposition to Iceland's continuing and increased commercial harvest of whales, particularly fin whales, and to its ongoing international trade in whale products," said the joint letter, submitted ahead of the summit's opening day.
"We are not convinced that Iceland's harvest and subsequent trade of fin whales meets any domestic market or need; it also undermines effective international cetacean conservation efforts."
Other signatories, besides the US and the 28 EU member states, included Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico and New Zealand.
Japan to resubmit 'research program'
Japan's plan for an expanded Antarctic Ocean whaling program, said to be for research purposes, is expected to feature heavily at the four-day meeting in Slovenia. In March, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that the program was not scientific, saying it didn't produce much actual research or justify the numbers of whales harvested. Japan is expected to outline a new plan during the summit, likely to pledge a reduction in the number and types of whales it intends to hunt.
"The content of our new research program will not be so different from our past research activities, which were highly regarded by scientists," said Hideki Moronuki, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation. "The main purpose was always to achieve sustainable use of whale resources."
The delegation from New Zealand, one of the IWC's members that strongly opposes whaling, was planning a draft resolution designed to uphold the ICJ ruling on Japan to ensure that no "illegal permits for scientific whaling" would be issued.