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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Deadlock at Greenland whale plan
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, Anchorage, Alaska

File image of a humpback whale's fluke
Greenland wants to include humpbacks in its annual hunt
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting has seen deadlock on its second day over Greenland's plans to expand its Inuit whale hunt.

But proposals from indigenous groups in the US, Caribbean and Russia passed.

Subsistence whaling rights are given to groups with traditional whaling culture and a nutritional need for whale meat.

On the sidelines, Japan met with anti-whaling nations to try to resolve differences over its plan to include humpbacks in its Antarctic hunt.

Species controversy

The plan has caused outrage in Australia and New Zealand, which have healthy whale-watching industries with humpbacks as their star turn.

Subsistence (aboriginal) hunting is a relatively uncontroversial issue, with most governments and activist groups supporting the notion that indigenous peoples should be entitled to catch whales on a not-for-profit basis, despite the 21-year global moratorium on commercial hunting.

Quotas are reviewed every five years, and this meeting is supposed to set allowances for the period 2008-12.

But the West Greenland bid proved unusually controversial. It wanted to increase the number of minke whales taken from 175 to 200, and include 10 humpbacks and 2 bowhead whales for the first time.

Minke whale   Francois Gohier/Ardea London

Greenland Inuit delegate Amalie Jessen said her people had demonstrated a need for 730 tonnes of whale meat each year rather than the current 450 tonnes.

"We like to see whales alive as well, but we see hunting them as an important part of our cultural life," she said.

Scientists advising the IWC believed there was not enough reliable information available to assess humpback stocks in the target region.

"We can only support a quota that's scientifically based," said Netherlands commissioner Giuseppe Raaphorst.

"On the scientific basis and the precautionary principle, we cannot accept this proposal."

But with pro-whaling nations amassing behind the Greenland bid, a decision was deferred.

The other bids, from the Chukchi of north-eastern Russia, Alaskan Eskimos, the Makah tribe of Washington State in the US, and the Beqians of St Vincent and the Grenadines, involved maintaining existing quotas, and passed without problem.

Talks about talks

The fiercest row currently concerns Japan's plan to add 50 humpback whales to its annual Antarctic hunt, which it conducts in the name of scientific research.

Before the meeting started, Japan offered to consider abandoning the humpback element if the anti-whaling bloc could consider its request to allow limited commercial hunting by four coastal communities.

The offer was dismissed instantly; but Japanese commissioners met informally with ministers from anti-whaling countries Australia, the UK and New Zealand in an attempt to find a way forward.

After the session, New Zealand's conservation minister Chris Carter told BBC News that they had agreed to continue talking, with the future of the IWC one item on which it might be possible to find common ground.

However, he said, the Japanese coastal whaling proposal would not be endorsed, while his government's opposition to the humpback hunt remained as implacable as ever.

Japanese delegates declined to comment.

Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk




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Footage of whales being hunted



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