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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 22:42 GMT 23:42 UK


Whale conservation boost

Greenpeace feared the ban on whale products would be reversed

Animal welfare campaigners are celebrating moves to safeguard threatened whales.

Greenpeace had feared the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which regulates whale hunting, would reverse the current ban on the trade in whale products.

The BBC's Robert Pigott: "The IWC want whale watching to replace whale hunting"
However, the IWC, meeting in Grenada, overwhelmingly supported upholding the ban.

John Frizell, Greenpeace delegate to the IWC meeting, said the resolution sent a "clear message" to the UN Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which backs the ban on the sale of whale meat and other products of endangered species.

[ image: Norway continues to hunt commercially]
Norway continues to hunt commercially
Japan and Norway are expected to press CITES to lift its support for the commercial hunting ban at the next CITES meeting in Nairobi in April 2000.

Japan is expected to apply to downgrade the minke to allow a limited trade in its meat.

Greenpeace said if CITES dropped its opposition to commercial hunting, it could spur Russia to resume whaling.

It would also encourage nations like Taiwan and Peru, which Greenpeace exposed as pirate whalers in the 1970s, to resume killing any whales that swim near their coasts, including the endangered blue whale.

Scientific research

Mr Frizell said: "We have every hope that CITES will continue to rely on the whaling commission's scientific expertise and uphold the ban on whale trade."

The IWC agreed a worldwide moratorium on whaling in 1982 and it came into force in 1986.

But Japan kills about 440 Antarctic minke whales annually in the name of scientific research - this year's total was 389. IWC rules permit unlimited research catches of any species.

Norway, which objected to the current moratorium and so is not bound by it, continues to hunt commercially. This year it plans to catch 753 north Atlantic minkes.

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