‘Historic day for whale conservation’ – Australia

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Australia is hailing a decision to reject Japan’s bid to resume commercial whaling as a historic victory, saying to do otherwise would have been a return to the dark ages.

Speaking in Sydney last night, Australian Prime Minister, Mr Howard, said there was still a lot to be done but a very important first stage in the battle to save whales had been won.

“I hope we can be successful but I do caution against assuming that the vote on scientific whaling will be exactly the same as the vote on commercial whaling,” he said.

“It shows that the trend of world opinion is against what Australia is against.

The vote has buoyed Environment Minister Ian Campbell, who is trying to win support for a resolution urging Japan to give up its plans to expand it scientific whaling cull.

Meeting in South Korea, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on Tuesday rejected Japan’s attempt to push through a document aimed at eventually resuming commercial whaling.

The measure, which required a three quarters majority, was voted down by 29 votes to 23, failing even to secure a simple majority of the 66-member bloc.

Senator Ian Campbell, who is also opposed to Japan’s effort to extend its scientific whaling program, described the vote as a historic victory.

“It’s a really historic victory for whale conservation, this has been a historic day,” he told ABC TV.

“We did as a world look into the abyss of going back into the dark ages of commercial whaling and we’ve come back from that.”

Japan, which still kills whales under the research program, has been pushing for a resumption of full-scale commercial catches, saying that depleted whale stocks have sufficiently recovered since a 1986 moratorium came into force.

While anti-whaling nations have had one victory, Japan will still go ahead with plans to extend its scientific program.

Japan has flagged plans to more than double its annual cull of minke whales to as many as 935 from 440 this year.

It also plans to enlarge the cull to include endangered fin and humpback species.

Whaling in the name of science is allowed under a special clause in a 19-year moratorium.

Senator Campbell is trying to win support for a non-binding resolution calling on Japan to withdraw its plans to expand its scientific program.

He said the vote gave him hope that the anti-whaling message would get through on Wednesday.

“It leads me to believe we have a very good chance of sending a strong signal on scientific whaling tomorrow,” he said.

“But we won’t know until tomorrow is over.”

Nick Gales, who heads Australia’s scientific delegation to the IWC, says the rationale behind the whale research program was flawed.

“The scientific whaling is extremely divisive,” he told ABC TV.

“(It) is a real problem because it seemed to be fundamentally, scientifically flawed in the rationale as to why those animals are going to be killed.”

New Zealand’s Conservation Minister Chris Carter described the vote as a resounding victory for conservation-minded countries and a great loss of face for Japan.

“It shows that this organisation does not want to return to the bad old days when it was open season for whaling, which is exactly what the Japanese proposal would have led to,” he said.

A member of the Japanese delegation, who asked not to be named, said he was disappointed by the outcome of the vote.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed about this. We had hoped the resolution would at least have secured a majority vote and gone some way towards bringing this organisation back towards the role that it was meant to do – that is managing commercial whaling on a sustainable basis.”