Pro-whaling lobby sinks sanctuary bid

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The Independent Online

Japan and Norway were accused of laying foundations for a return to commercial whaling yesterday after they led a block on attempts to create a giant whale sanctuary in the south Pacific.

Japan and Norway were accused of laying foundations for a return to commercial whaling yesterday after they led a block on attempts to create a giant whale sanctuary in the south Pacific.

The two countries were part of a coalition of pro-whaling nations that voted against the proposal at the International Whaling Commission's 53rd annual conference in London.

Supporters of the sanctuary, proposed by Australia and New Zealand, said a zone had to be provided to allow whale populations to recover from exploitation. South Pacific nations have repeatedly asked that the sanctuary be established, most recently in a statement issued in Samoa, in April.

But Masayuki Komatsu, director of the Japanese Fisheries Agency, said the 15-year moratorium that bans commercial whaling worldwide offered "adequate protection".

Conservationists, who have accused Japan of using foreign aid to win the support of a number of small Caribbean and Pacific nations, said the vote was part of a strategy to overturn the whaling ban. Mick McIntyre, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "This wasn't a vote, it was an auction and Japan was the highest bidder.

"They have bought support to return to whaling. If they succeed in overturning the moratorium, the creation of the south Pacific sanctuary would have closed a large hunting area. That is obviously something they did not want."

Pio Manoa, a Greenpeace campaigner from Fiji, called the vote "a slap in the face to the South Pacific" and said it "has grave consequences for the future protection of whales".

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