February 11, 2010

Japan To Propose New Whaling Agreement

A fisheries official announced Wednesday that Japan will propose scaling down its troubled annual whale hunt in Antarctica, on conditions that it is allowed to whale commercially in its own coastal waters.

The official said that Tokyo plans to present its proposal to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Morocco in June, even though a similar plan was rejected last year by the 85-body nation.

"We have been studying ways to reach a packaged agreement and to normalize the IWC activities," the Fisheries Agency official told AFP. However, the official declined to provide specific details of Tokyo's proposal, only saying, "The efforts continue today."

Japanese whalers kill hundreds of whales in Antarctic waters every year.  Their fleet has repeatedly clashed in recent months with militant environmental activists of the Sea Shepherd Society.

Although commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986, Japan justifies its hunts as scientific research, while not hiding the fact that whale meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.

The Sea Shepherd Society said they blasted water cannon at Japanese fishermen on Monday, and have also accused the whalers of ramming their vessel.

At IWC's meeting last year, anti-whaling countries rejected Japan's offer to scale down its south Pacific culls if it was allowed to commercially hunt 150 minke whales every year in coastal waters.

Hirotaka Akamtsu, an agriculture minister, said he plans to submit the proposal personally at the IWC, and Japanese officials were already in talks with other nations on reaching a compromise.

"If possible, I myself would go to an IWC meeting and propose and demand approval for the commercial catching of minke whales along Japanese coasts," he said last week, saying Japan was ready for some compromises.

The IWC was set up by 15 whale-hunting nations in 1946 to manage the whale population by the fishing industry.  Now, the body has 85 members and has taken an increasingly conservationist approach.

The IWC instituted a ban in 1986 on commercial whaling that still stands today.

The body has been deadlocked in recent years by divisions between countries like Japan, which say the dangers of whaling are exaggerated.


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