BERLIN – The International Whaling Commission dealt a fresh blow to Japan’s whaling plans Wednesday, rejecting requests to expand the hunt for minke whales in coastal waters and establish a new hunting ground for Bryde’s whales in the northwestern Pacific.
The Japanese coastal whaling resolution, which required a 75 percent majority to be adopted, was turned down after receiving 19 votes in favor, 26 against and one abstention.
Japan’s coastal whaling communities have been allowed to catch 50 minke whales a year in coastal waters until last year. Japan wants to triple the annual quota.
“Whaling is a way to protect our community, and it is regrettable that our proposal was rejected,” said Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano. Miyagi is one of four prefectures with local whaling communities.
IWC members also voted down a separate Japanese request to catch 150 Bryde’s whales at a new hunting ground in the northwestern Pacific.
Reflecting growing antiwhaling sentiment within the IWC, the commission decided to set up a whale conservation committee Monday, the opening day of the body’s four-day annual meeting.
The two rounds of votes Wednesday marked another setback for Japan’s plans to push for the resumption of commercial whaling. The IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982.
Japan switched to “research whaling” in the Antarctic in 1987. Critics say the program is nothing more than commercial whaling in disguise, as all of the whale meat ends up in restaurants.
In 2002, Japan caught 590 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 50 Sei whales and 10 sperm whales under this program.
Later Wednesday, the IWC approved a resolution calling for the program to be banned. The measure has no legal binding power, and Japan says it will continue the practice.
“We will continue seeking ways to establish a new system for the conservation and management of whales and other marine mammals from a scientific viewpoint,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference in Tokyo Thursday following the IWC’s move. “Our stand on this policy will not change.”
Antiwhaling member countries have also submitted a proposal to set up a task force to find ways to stop whales from becoming accidentally enmeshed in fixed nets. The vote on this resolution has been pushed back to Thursday, the last day of the IWC meeting.
Germany and other antiwhaling countries have blasted the accidental enmeshing of whales in the course of fixed netting as tantamount to commercial whaling, noting that the meat of the whales trapped in the nets is sold for consumption.
Japan rejects the claim, saying that accidental enmeshing of whales has inflicted greater financial damage on the owners of fixed nets than any financial gains from such catches.
Japan has also questioned the justification for a ban on research whaling in the Antarctic, arguing that the level of Japanese catches does not pose any risk to current whale stocks.
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