Norway, one of the three remaining whaling nations, said it would consider leaving the commission - a threat it has made before. And the Norwegians confirmed that they would resume commercial whaling next year, in defiance of the moratorium.
Environmental groups, which said that the meeting had ended in victory for their cause, warned that Norwegian exports would face a widespread consumer boycott. Andy Ottaway, Greenpeace UK's whale campaigner, said: 'Norway has declared war on world public opinion. It's a war they will definitely lose.'
Iceland left the commission earlier this week.
Japan, which will host next year's commission meeting, was irritated and disappointed with the outcome of the past two weeks. Its commissioner, Kazuo Shima, said the growing pressure in its parliament for Japan to leave the whaling commission was becoming harder to resist.
In a closing statement, Mr Shima said that the 'political biases, emotions and preoccupations' of anti-whaling nations had come to dominate the commission. He went on: 'I want to remind you of the objective of the IWC - the conservation and rational utilisation of whale resources.' Japan would continue 'scientific whaling', killing 300 minke whales a year in the Antarctic. This was allowed under commission rules.
A key objective for environmental groups and anti-whaling nations at next year's meeting is to have the waters around the Antarctic declared a whale sanctuary.
But Japan plans to set up an international organisation for the 'rational exploitation' of marine mammals in the north Pacific, similar to the one that Iceland and Norway will launch in September for the north Atlantic. Russia and South Korea might join.
Initially it will be concerned only with how many small cetaceans - lesser whales and dolphins - should be killed but its remit could expand to cover the great whales.
Russia had earlier submitted plans to kill 100 minke whales in the seas around Japan for scientific research, but during the meeting its commissioner said this was a mistake. The whalers had hoped that after years of scientific work the meeting would agree to a 'revised management procedure'. This would set down constraints and conditions that would allow commercial whaling of minkes in the Antarctic and North Atlantic to resume.
Although the meeting voted to accept one part of the revised management procedure, it attached many other strings. The tactic of the anti-whaling majority, which includes Britain, France, Germany and the United States, is to string out the moratorium for years. Jan Arvesen, the Norwegian commissioner, said: 'The IWC is further away from the actual implementation of the revised management procedure than at the end of last year's meeting.'
And in response to comments by John Gummer, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the inhumane harpooning of whales, he said that this compared favourably with the hunting of red deer.Reuse content