The International Whaling Commission decided June 23 in Agadir, Morocco, to postpone a final decision on a 10-year compromise proposal and to have a one-year cooling-off period before reviving talks. While it is unfortunate that the 88-member body failed to reach a compromise, a cooling-off period is better than a complete breakdown. It is hoped that whaling and antiwhaling countries will persevere to produce a mutually acceptable agreement next year.

The compromise proposal put forward by commission chairman Mr. Cristian Maquieira and vice chairman Mr. Anthony Liverpool called for lifting a 24-year-old moratorium on commercial whaling, abolishing the current classification of commercial, research and aboriginal subsistence whaling and allowing Japan, Norway and Iceland to engage in limited whaling for 10 years.

Japan’s commercial whaling was halted in 1986. The next year, it started research whaling in the Antarctic Ocean and Japanese coastal waters by unilaterally setting quotas — now annually 850 minke whales in the former area and 120 in the latter area — under the International Convention for Regulation of Whaling.

The compromise proposal would allow Japan to catch up to 120 minke whales a year in coastal waters off Abashiri (Hokkaido), Ayukawa (Miyagi Prefecture), Wada (Chiba Prefecture) and Taiji (Wakayama Prefecture). It would also cut Japan’s annual quota in the Antarctic Ocean to 400 for the first five years and 200 in the next five years and place Japan’s whaling under strict monitoring by the IWC.

While data accumulated through Japan’s research whaling is useful in determining the condition of whale populations from a perspective of sustainable use of resources, whale meat consumption in Japan is tiny. In fiscal 2009, Japan caught 506 whales in the Antarctic Ocean, about 60 percent of its quota. Japan was ready to accept the compromise proposal in principle. Hardcore antiwhaling countries should be a bit more flexible. For its part, Japan should carefully examine its whaling in the Antarctic Ocean both from scientific and commercial viewpoints.

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