The French accepted they would not get the three-quarters majority needed to win if the proposal was put to a vote.
But their sanctuary plan has been welcomed by many nations attending the meeting in Glasgow, including Britain, and it will be considered at next year's meeting in Tokyo.
In the meantime France will try to refine its plan and seek wider support. She only announced it just before the commission began its meeting. The proposal is for whaling to be banned below the latitude 40 degrees south. Japan takes 300 minke whales a year from Antarctic seas in its 'scientific whaling' programme.
Environmental and animal welfare groups lobbying the commission's 44th annual meeting have alleged that four tiny Caribbean island states which have sent delegations to Glasgow are taking a pro-whaling stance in return for Japanese aid.
The presence of St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Kitts and Dominica was enough to scupper any chance of the French getting three-quaters of the votes, claimed the environmentalists.
But yesterday one of the four, Dominica, said it had never received any Japanese aid - or even discussed attending the meeting with Japan.
Ashworth Elwin, a member of the Dominican delegation, said that Dominica had received financial help from environmental organisations in the early 1980s in order to attend commission meetings and vote against commercial whaling. It left in 1983, owing several thousand pounds of membership fees, but had now decided to rejoin.
With all the main disputes between the pro and anti whaling nations still to be resolved by the weekend, the emotions and anger stirred up by the debate are spilling over into the two unofficial daily newspapers circulating during the meeting.
The International Harpoon - The paper with a point is the pro- whaling journal. Eco is the rival desktop publication from the environmentalists. Both are A3 pieces of paper folded in two carrying a few items of news mixed with comment. Both are highly partisan; accuracy and fairnesss are not at a premium. But it has to be said that The International Harpoon is a better read: more vituperative and funny, and better illustrated.
The Norwegian whaling boat Elin Toril was able to sail home from Glasgow yesterday after Greenpeace protesters ended their blockade. They had chained themselves to its harpoon and a nearby swing bridge.
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