Australia calls for an end to whaling

Australia has called for a gradual phasing out of whaling around the world in a proposal submitted to the International Whaling Commission.

The proposal - which excludes aboriginal subsistence whaling - calls for whaling to be brought under the control of the commission so individual countries cannot unilaterally give permits for "scientific" whaling, environment minister Peter Garrett said, in a reference to Japan, which kills hundreds of whales each year under its whaling research programme.

The proposal will be discussed further at an IWC committee meeting in Florida next week.

Mr Garrett said Australia could not accept another proposal put forward this week by an IWC working group that advocated the resumption of low-level whaling to replace the uncontrolled scientific whaling that kills up to 3,000 of the mammals each year. It is intended to lower the overall number of whales killed worldwide.

"That is why we have now brought forward this new proposal to advance true conservation objectives, and specifically to bring about an end to commercial and so-called scientific whaling right around the world," Mr Garrett said.

Australia, a staunch anti-whaling nation, has given Japan until November to end its Antarctic whaling or face action at the International Court of Justice, and reiterated that stance in today's statement.

Tokyo has vowed to defend its hunt in any legal forum, saying it is an allowed exception to the IWC's 1986 ban on commercial whaling.

Japan has six whaling ships in Antarctic waters under its scientific whaling programme. It hunts hundreds of mostly minke whales, which are not an endangered species. Whale meat not used for study is sold for consumption in Japan, which critics say is the real reason for the hunts.

The Australian proposal calls for an end to whaling in the Antarctic Ocean within five years, and a phasing out of all other whaling worldwide - with the exception of aboriginal subsistence whaling - "within a reasonable period of time".

Currently, the IWC allows limited subsistence whaling of certain types of whales by native peoples in parts of Greenland, Russia, the US and St Vincent and the Grenadines.