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Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
Japan presses for whaling resumption
Whaling ship
Japan wants to expand its scientific research whaling
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has begun its annual meeting in Japan, with the host country and Norway hoping to win support for a resumption of commercial whaling.

Japan and Norway have obviously decided to go their own way, and the rest of the international community be damned

Fred O'Regan, International Fund for Animal Welfare
More than 100 Japanese politicians from various political parties have gathered at the meeting in the port town of Shimonoseki to press for the lifting of the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling imposed in 1986.

"We've pushed for lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling every year, and you can bet it will be on the agenda this time around," Toshiharu Tarui, an official from the Foreign Ministry's fisheries bureau told the Associated Press news agency.

A spokesman for a Japanese parliamentary group said the aim was to promote the sustainable use of whales for scientific purposes while preserving species.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in line with the moratorium, but began what it calls scientific research whaling the following year.

Norway resumed commercial whale hunts in 1993, despite the moratorium - but in recent years has found it hard to sell the meat on the domestic market.


The two countries have to win a three-quarters majority vote to lift the moratorium, and some conservationists have recently expressed fears that Japan and Norway may succeed at the talks.

Japanese diner
Whale meat is an expensive delicacy in Japan
"We are very much against this," said Motoji Nagasawa, a whale campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

"The biggest problem is that once Norway starts exports, other pro-whaling nations might follow. It will be impossible to completely eliminate smuggling as well."

The president of the Washington-based International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw), Fred O'Regan, said it was "absolutely outrageous".

"Japan and Norway have obviously decided to go their own way, and the rest of the international community be damned," he said.

Controversial research

Japan has also recently announced plans to expand its whaling programme to add sei whales to a list of species it hunts for scientific research.

It also hopes to win more support for sustainable use of minkes, which it says are numerous.

The research programme is allowed under IWC's rules, which permit an unlimited catch of any whale species in the name of science.

Japan's critics say the sale of the whales' meat for human consumption shows the research is simply a stratagem - although the Japanese say they are obliged by the IWC to sell the meat to avoid waste.

Expanded catch

Last year, Japan caught about 440 minke whales in the Antarctic, where it says the total population of the species - the smallest of the great whales - numbers about 760,000 animals. The IWC thinks the number could be much smaller.

In the north Pacific this year, Japan plans to catch 150 minkes, 10 sperm whales, 50 sei and 50 Bryde's whales.

It says the stocks are big enough to sustain catches of this size, though its critics are unconvinced.

The initial IWC talks in Japan, which are closed to the public, will be followed by the main plenary session on 20 May, where the ITC is expected to vote on whether to approve a resumption of commercial whaling.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | Sci/Tech
Japan green group softens on whaling
06 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan to import Norwegian whale
28 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
Japan plans to expand whaling
05 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Humane whale research plan
08 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Japan's whale-seeking satellite
04 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Whaling 'safe for a century'
27 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Green group backs limited whale hunt
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