Japan to rally pro-whaling nations for ending ban

Eric Talmadge,Associated Press
Thursday 26 August 2010 07:02 BST

Japan is inviting pro-whaling nations to a meeting aimed at building support for lifting a decades-old ban on commercial whale hunts, the country's fisheries agency said today.

After failing to get the ban lifted at this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission, Japan is hoping about 40 pro-whaling nations will attend the event it plans in the southern port of Shimonoseki — a traditional whaling hub — in November.

The meeting is intended to build solidarity among pro-whaling nations in support of "sustainable use" and to strengthen the lobby against the ban on commercial whaling in place since 1986, the fisheries agency said in a statement.

Japan has long been one of the strongest opponents of the ban and lobbied at the IWC meeting in June for the moratorium to be suspended for 10 years.

That effort failed amid intense opposition from anti-whaling members and environmental groups who wanted whaling nations to agree to gradually phase out all catches.

Japan, Norway and Iceland harvest whales annually under the ban's various exemptions. Norway's IWC commissioner, Karsten Klepsvik, said the zero-catch demand was "an impossible situation."

Conservation groups estimate 1.5 million whales were killed in the 20th century.

Friction within the IWC has led Japan to repeatedly threaten to quit the body, which Japan says ignores scientific data suggesting that limited takes of some more plentiful whale species would cause no significant threat to their populations.

Japan hunts whales along its coastal waters and in the Antarctic under the research exemption to the ban. Critics say the scientific hunts are a cover for commercial whaling because the meat gleaned from the killed whales often ends up in restaurants or stores.

Opponents of Japan's whaling policy also allege the country has used its economic clout to unjustly woo votes in the IWC from countries that have no real stake in whaling. Japan has strongly denied that claim.

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