Environment: Dismay at bid to end whaling ban

The Government was yesterday urged to resist "bullying tactics" by Japan and Norway when ministers meet next week to discuss a plan for the resumption of limited commercial whaling.

It was also urged by the RSPCA to drop its opposition to a ban on European drift nets and end the slaughter of thousands of whales and dolphins.

The proposal to allow a resumption of whaling would mean "disaster" for the world's endangered whales if it gets the go-ahead at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Monaco, the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency warned.

Commercial killing of Minke whales has been banned since 1986 but both Japan and Norway still hunt them, using a loophole in the rules which allows "scientific" quota catches.

The new plan, put forward by the Irish, would allow Japan and Norway to kill whales within 200 miles of their coastlines - but in return they would have to accept the establishment of a global sanctuary for whales and the closing of the legal loophole on scientific catches.

But environmentalists warn the vast majority of whales spend some time in coastal waters, so the plan could expose virtually the entire world population to hunting.

Dave Curry, of the EIA, said that the proposal belonged in "cloud cuckoo land", and added: "It bears no reality to what goes on in Tokyo fish markets where whale meat ends up for sale at pounds 200 per kilo."