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International Whaling Commission countries meet in search of compromise

June 21, 2010 - MOROCCO

The 62nd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission takes place in Agadir. The main quest will be for a grand compromise on an IWC ad hoc proposal. It would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to hunt openly despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, but put their programs under strict IWC monitoring and aim for sharp reductions in their catch over 10 years. A vote by three-quarters of the 88 IWC countries would be needed for any deal, making it doubtful the IWC can find consensus.

; The 62nd meeting of the International Whaling Commission takes place in Agadir. The main quest will be for a grand compromise on an IWC ad hoc proposal. It would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to hunt openly despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, but put their programs under strict IWC monitoring and aim for sharp reductions in their catch over 10 years. A vote by three-quarters of the 88 IWC countries would be needed for any deal, making it doubtful the IWC can find consensus. The ad hoc IWC group suggested Monday that the commission condone commercial whaling for the first time in nearly 30 years in exchange for reducing the number of whales killed each year. The draft plan, the product of nearly a year and a half of closed-door talks, aims to break a long-standing deadlock between countries that favor whaling and those that oppose it. Only three nations -- Japan, Norway and Iceland -- hunt whales, although they have the support of dozens of other members of the commission. Environmentalists condemned the draft plan, saying that it would open the door to official whaling. At the meeting Japan will propose scaling down its annual whale hunt in Antarctica on condition it is allowed to whale commercially in its own coastal waters. A similar plan was rejected by the IWC in 2009. The Australian Government supports an end to all commercial and scientific whaling. Canberra had said that the IWC proposal was unacceptable as it does not stop Japanese whaling in the Antarctic. It has set a deadline for Japan to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean by Nov 2010, or face international legal action. Japan justifies its hunts as scientific research, which is allowed, while not hiding the fact that the whale meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.Norway and Iceland defy the moratorium altogether by lodging objections with the IWC. As Japan is a major market for Australian goods, trade realities, rather than the IWC or the courts, could help Australia and Japan come to an understanding on the Southern Ocean issue. The wider compromise, as envisioned by the IWC, however, could be much harder to win. As in 2009, a full day has been set aside, on Jun 20, for a private meeting of commissioners.The future of the IWC and other routine business will be discussed at the closed session. Efforts continue to reform the 64-year-old organization to end the chronic state of deadlock over most aspects of whale welfare. Australia and New Zealand are mobilizing to play a more aggressive role in both issues. Efforts to reform the body began at the 2007 IWC meeting in Alaska, where the organization decided to hold intercessional meetings to examine the function and effectiveness of the body as a whole. (Written Mar 2010)

Whaling foes struggle to reach deal (AFP/SMH 5 Mar 2010)

Panel proposes support for whaling in exchange for limits (WP 23 Feb 2010)

Opposition renews attack on whaling deadline (ABC 22 Feb 2010)

Georgia: Suit to Protect Whales (NYT 28 Jan 2010)

PM set of suing over whaling (The Australian 6 Mar 2010)

Abduction of aboriginal whaling rights (BBC 2 Mar 2010)

Australia tells Japan: Stop whaling or face court (BBC 19 Feb 2010)

Date written/update: 2010-06-21