June 20, 2006

US says won’t cut deals with Japan over whaling

By Michael Christie

FRIGATE BAY, St. Kitts and Nevis (Reuters) - The United
States said on Tuesday it would not be cutting any deals with
Japan over Alaska's bowhead whale hunting quota as it prepares
to host an international whaling group next year.

U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Director Bill
Hogarth said Japan had threatened a "blow-up" over the
aboriginal quota for Eskimos if Washington did not give some
ground on Japan's demand that a 1986 moratorium against
commercial whaling be overturned.

"We don't plan to cut a deal. We don't expect to be held
hostage," Hogarth told reporters in the Caribbean island state
of St. Kitts and Nevis at the end of the annual meeting of the
International Whaling Commission, or IWC -- a world body that
presides over what is left of the Earth's largest creatures.

The great whales were almost driven into extinction by the
time the IWC imposed the moratorium. But Japan, Norway, Iceland
and other pro-whaling nations say some species have recovered
and can be hunted again in a sustainable way.

Japan and Iceland conduct scientific research whaling,
Norway ignores the moratorium and more than 25,000 whales have
been killed in the last two decades.

The IWC also allows indigenous communities with a tradition
of hunting whales to kill a limited number of a specific
species each year.

Alaska's Eskimos can kill 41 bowheads -- a whale that can
grow to 60 ft, weigh up to 90 metric tons, and is thought to
number 12,000 worldwide.

The quota is up for renewal when the United States hosts
the IWC annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, next year, and
needs 75 percent support in the fractious commission to pass.


Japan managed to gather majority support in the IWC for the
first time in more than two decades at the June 16-20 St. Kitts
meeting, but only in one pro-whaling vote. And Tokyo has
questioned the bowhead quota before, to U.S. consternation.

"Japan has made it very clear that they think that
something has to be done before next year's meeting to help
them or we could have another blow-up over the bowhead,"
Hogarth said. "We'll talk but we don't plan on making any

A Japanese spokesman said Tokyo's decision on the U.S.
bowhead quota would be based on "scientific evidence."

But Japanese officials have indicated they believe the one
pro-whaling vote they managed to secure at the St. Kitts
meeting reflected a subtle change in the balance of power
within the IWC.

"This is not the same old IWC as far as we are concerned,"
Japan's alternate IWC commissioner, Joji Morishita, told

Tokyo wants to see an end to an impasse between pro-whaling
nations and countries like Australia and New Zealand, which
believe all whales should be protected forever. It has invited
all those willing to consider a form of regulated whale hunting
to a meeting in Japan early next year.

Staunch anti-whaling nation New Zealand said it was
outraged at Japan's apparent attempt to blackmail the United
States -- a moderate IWC voice -- over the bowhead quota.

"I don't think this sort of diplomatic blackmail is ever
going to yield any result," New Zealand IWC commissioner Sir
Geoffrey Palmer said. "The United States stands between the
whales and oblivion."