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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK
Pro-whalers setback at Japan meeting
Pro-whaling protesters in Shimonoseki, AP
Japan wants to see a resumption of commercial whaling
The anti-whaling camp has scored an unexpected victory in the first vote to be taken at this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Japan.

They succeeded in excluding Iceland which wants to join the IWC while keeping open the option of a return to commercial whaling.


(The vote) is a major setback for the pro-whalers and an unexpected margin

UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley
Japan has been leading the drive for a resumption of commercial whaling, banned 15 years ago, at the meeting held in the port of Shimonoseki in western Japan, home to the country's whaling fleet.

The vote over Iceland's membership was seen as a key test of sentiment as the conference got under way.

Pro-whaling countries tried to overturn last year's ruling that Iceland could not join until it agreed to accept the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling.

IWC, AFP
Pro-whaling campaigners make their case at the meeting
They were defeated by 25 votes to 20 despite their optimism that this time they could muster the necessary majority.

Iceland has had non-voting observer status since its delegates walked out of an IWC meeting 10 years ago to protest against the commission's anti-whaling stance.

Its return to full membership could have given the pro-whaling nations a majority.

The UK Fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, said the result was better than expected and a very good sign, but he cautioned that anti-whaling countries could face tougher resistance on other issues.

There is a suspicion some delegates may have been confused by the hours of procedural wrangling before the vote was taken and by its wording.

Stormy days ahead

In the coming days, Japan will seek support for an expansion of its research whaling programme which currently takes about 500 minke whales a year.

It will also seek to block proposals for new whale sanctuaries in the South Pacific and South Atlantic.

Gray whale   Noaa
Gray whale: Subsistence whalers' target
Japan says some species of whales are so abundant they are threatening fish stocks.

The United States has described the claim as false and an attempt to make the whale a scapegoat for over-fishing.

Six countries have joined the organisation in recent weeks and four are thought to back Japan's position.

Environmental groups have accused Japan of buying the votes of new members with development aid.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Clive Myrie in Japan
"The debate over commercial whaling is a bitter one"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Sea change?
Should the ban on whaling be lifted?
See also:

20 May 02 | Science/Nature
08 May 02 | Science/Nature
25 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
06 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
27 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
20 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Links to more Asia-Pacific stories are at the foot of the page.


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