Japan's attempts to "reopen the commercial trade in whale products" have been frustrated at an international conference, conservationists claimed Wednesday.

Japan had proposed setting up a review to consider whether all of the great whale species should remain on an endangered list that prevents international trade in those products.

However, the plan was defeated at the meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, with 28 votes for, 55 against and 13 abstentions, according to environmentalists.

"This is a big win for the great whales. Today's decision signals an emerging global consensus for whale conservation in the 21st century," said Patrick Ramage, from the International Fund for Animal Welfare.