Japan looses opening skirmish at IWC

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The International Whaling Commission rejected a proposal by Japan to exclude the creation of whale sanctuaries from the agenda on the first day of its annual conference Monday in Ulsan, South Korea.

Japan had been opposed to the IWC dealing with a proposal by Australia, Argentina and other countries to set up no-whaling areas in the South Pacific and the South Atlantic, but member states voted down the Japanese proposal by 31 to 24. Later, the IWC also rejected by 30 to 27 a Japanese proposal that the IWC adopt secret balloting on resolutions.

Japan’s quest to overturn a 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling started poorly yesterday when it lost two votes at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission.

As the most vocal pro-whaling country, Japan had hoped to gain the upper hand against conservationist countries such as Britain and Australia by introducing secret ballots in IWC votes and removing talks on whale sanctuaries from the agenda of the five-day meeting in Ulsan, South Korea.

Overturning the ban would require a two-thirds majority. The failure to win a majority on less controversial issues has heightened speculation that Tokyo may leave the IWC.

Yesterday’s votes will not affect Japan’s most controversial plan, to increase the catch from its so-called scientific whale hunts, which Tokyo says are needed to study changes in whale numbers and manage stocks.

Under an IWC bylaw, meat from the animals can be sold, prompting criticism that the research is commercial whaling by the back door.

Image: IWC