• Kyodo

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Japan will propose easing an embargo on the international trade of minke whales and Bryde’s whales at an international wildlife conservation meeting in November in Chile, sources close to the meeting said Friday.

The Japanese government has already notified concerned nations such as the United States of the decision, the sources said, adding that Japan will finalize the proposal early next week.

But the move is likely to draw flak from antiwhaling nations and environmental conservation groups. Japan was sharply criticized last month at the annual International Whaling Commission conference held in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, for its efforts to resume commercial whaling.

Japan will seek to relax the ban on the trade of Bryde’s whales in the North Pacific and minke whales in the Northern Hemisphere, except in the waters in and around the Sea of Japan, according to the sources. The proposal will be presented at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Tokyo is expected to ask for the trade ban to be eased from the CITES’ Appendix 1, which prohibits all international trade, to Appendix 2, which allows exports with permission from exporting nations.

Japan made a similar attempt at the 2000 CITES meeting in Nairobi. They requested an easing of the embargo on minke and other whales, but the proposal was voted down by a majority.

If the proposal is approved, export and import of whales will be possible among all signatories of the CITES, which is dubbed the Washington Convention. Two-thirds of voting nations are required to approve the proposal.

Currently, Japan can only legally trade whales with Norway, which also disagrees with the embargo.

Japan claims the number of whales in each category is rising. They also say that easing the ban will not lead to extinction because of the establishment of trade-monitoring systems such as DNA registration of whale meat.

Antiwhaling nations, including the U.S., Britain and Australia, are expected to oppose such Japanese proposals at the upcoming CITES event. The conflict between the two sides will likely intensify.

Naoko Funahashi, head of Japan’s branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, criticized the government’s move. He said the number of minke whales in the Northern Hemisphere and Bryde’s whales in the North Pacific are not yet fully known or specified.

“That’s why Japan’s claim that lifting the embargo will not affect (the number of whales) lacks scientific grounds,” she said.

Japan is also likely to submit to the CITES a proposal to allow the CITES to have decision-making power independent from the IWC, the sources said.

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