• Kyodo

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The International Whaling Commission has ended its four-day annual meeting having chipped away at still-considerable differences between whaling nations like Japan and antiwhaling countries.

The issues dividing the two camps are over a set of guidelines to regulate commercial whaling.

The IWC passed a resolution by consensus with some reservations to work further on the text of a Revised Management Scheme for commercial whaling, a topic that has not moved forward in the last 13 years.

The resolution calls for a working-group meeting in February to continue work on the management scheme, a set of legal and scientific guidelines to regulate commercial whaling.

The IWC, however, “noted that work on a number of issues, including specification of an inspection and observer system must be completed before the commission will consider establishing catch limits other than zero,” according to a statement issued by the IWC at the end of the 52nd annual meeting.

The compromise on the revised management scheme “demonstrated there’s a will to move forward,” said IWC Secretary Ray Gambell. He also observed there was “a degree of openness” during this year’s meeting.

At the meeting, Japan introduced a resolution dropping paragraphs in the IWC’s list of regulations that ban all commercial whaling, but failed to muster enough support. The Japanese delegation agreed to shelve the proposal until 2001.

But Minoru Morimoto, Japanese Commissioner to the IWC, described the meeting as “one of the most positive and productive in recent years.”

The IWC commitment to complete its work on the revised management scheme “means the implementation of RMS could occur at next year’s conference, allowing a strictly controlled sustainable take of abundant (whale) species,” he said in a statement.

Morimoto told Kyodo News that he considered the failure of antiwhaling countries to push ahead with the proposed South Pacific sanctuary as among the positive developments during this year’s meeting.

Japan, Norway and Caribbean countries succeeded Tuesday in blocking a proposal by Australia and New Zealand to establish a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific.

Environment groups like Greenpeace, the East Caribbean Coalition for Environment Awareness (ECCEA) and Springfield Environmental Center charge Japan with buying the votes of the small Caribbean countries.

The ECCEA said Atherton Martin, Dominica’s minister of Planning, Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries, has resigned in protest at what he said was Japan’s manipulation of his government’s vote at the IWC through the promise of aid.

In a letter released by the ECCEA, Martin said Dominica’s delegate voted with Japan on the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary on the order of Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Douglas, who disregarded the Dominican Cabinet’s decision to abstain during the voting.

The vote-buying charge was denied by Japanese officials, who said Japan gives development aid to 150 countries and some of those countries are members of the IWC but have voted against Japan’s position.

The commission also passed a resolution censuring Japan’s plan to expand its lethal whale research program in the North Pacific.