MADEIRA, Portugal (Kyodo) The International Whaling Commission agreed Tuesday to postpone for one year its decision on whether to allow Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters in return for scaling down or ending its research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean.

On the second day of the IWC’s annual general meeting on the Portuguese island of Madeira, IWC members unanimously supported the postponement in line with an agreement by an IWC panel.

The latest IWC action dashed Japan’s hope that whaling in its coastal areas could resume soon.

In Geneva in May, the IWC panel, comprising representatives from 33 countries, agreed to postpone the debate over the proposed Japanese coastal whaling due to differences between Japan and antiwhaling nations, including Australia.

Australia and other antiwhaling nations have bitterly criticized Japan’s research whaling, calling it a cover for commercial whaling.

According to the proposal, the IWC would allow whalers from the four traditional whaling ports of Abashiri, Hokkaido; Ayukawa, Miyagi Prefecture; Wada, Chiba Prefecture; and Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture — to catch minke whales in coastal waters.

In return, Japan would phase out its minke hunt in the Antarctic.

During Tuesday’s general meeting, Australia’s environment minister, Peter Garrett, called for a revision to the current research whaling system, which he accused of allowing a country to engage in whaling without any permission from the IWC.

Akira Nakamae, who heads the Japanese delegation, countered by saying the IWC’s efforts to reach a compromise among members would be hampered because “a certain country” is sticking to the idea of suspending research whaling.

Speaking at the outset of the IWC meeting, Chairman William Hogarth said, “The biggest thing . . . is going to be to reduce the number of whales” Japan catches for scientific purposes in the Antarctic Ocean to reach a compromise with the antiwhaling camp.

The IWC general meeting is slated to run through Friday.

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