• Kyodo

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Japan’s Wednesday proposal requesting permission for small-scale coastal whaling brought mixed reactions, from strong objections to support, at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

A decision will be delivered Thursday, the final day of the four-day IWC gathering in Anchorage, as Japan has asked the chair to keep the dialogue open regarding the proposal.

The proposal would allow the four coastal communities of Abashiri in Hokkaido, Ayukawa in Miyagi Prefecture, Wada in Chiba Prefecture, and Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture to hunt minke whales in their coastal waters for five years.

On the meeting’s third day, representatives from the Japanese communities were asked to stand as Joji Morishita, director for international negotiations of the Fisheries Agency, introduced them. Morishita said the people from these communities have been hunting whales for hundreds of years and that it is a part of their life that they want to defend.

Japan has tried to get permission for coastal whaling for more than 20 years but has so far been unsuccessful.

“It is a long, long history of broken promises,” Morishita said. “I also should say that a request for small-scale coastal whaling is a history of unanswered questions.”

But British commissioner Richard Cowan said, “Japan said they don’t wish to break the moratorium of commercial whaling, yet the Japanese commissioner said the meat will be traded commercially across Japan.

“That is precisely the breaking of the moratorium,” Cowan said.

On the other hand, supporters of the proposal said Japan’s coastal whaling should be treated the same as subsistence whaling by native peoples in North America and Russia.

“Japan has big problems,” Russian commissioner Valentin Ilyashenko said in support of the Japanese proposal. “Providing their traditional food is prohibited by international organizations and I have no doubts that the coastal whaling has analogies with aboriginal whaling.”

Japan submitted the proposal under the IWC rules that allow subsistence whaling quotas to native peoples in North America, Russia and other places, according to Japanese representatives.

Under IWC regulations, Denmark is permitted aboriginal subsistence whaling for fin and minke whales off Greenland, Russia for gray and bowhead whales off Siberia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines for humpback whales in Bequia, and the United States for bowhead and gray whales in Alaska.

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