March 5, 2010

Whaling Battlers Seeking Compromise

Australia and Japan failed to strike a deal on Thursday to end a dispute on whaling, but the U.S. negotiator said the nations would continue to seek compromise.

Key players on whaling fought for a compromise in a three day meeting at a Florida beach resort to allow Japan, Norway and Iceland hunt whales openly despite a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.

In the agreement, the whaling nations would have to put their activities under the close supervision of the 88-nation International Whaling Commission (IWC), as well as drastically reduce their catch over a 10-year period.

Monica Medina, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC, said "I think the jury is out" when asked if supporters and opponents of whaling could strike a deal.

Australia and Japan "are emphasizing that their governments work together on many issues, but neither side has signaled that they are ready to completely meet the other one all the way," Medina told AFP.

Japan kills hundreds of whales a year in the Antarctic Ocean, which has caused controversy in popular whale-watching countries like Australia and New Zealand. 

Japan, which claims that whaling is apart of its culture, uses a loophole in the 1986 moratorium to hunt whales as apart of a "lethal research". 

Medina said the U.S. has not taken a side on the proposal as it waits for exact figures for the number of whales that would be hunted.

However, she did indicate that the U.S. was supportive of a compromise if it reduced the number of whales killed. 

"The whales don't know the word moratorium," Medina said.

She said it was important to "look at the number of whales in the water that can be conserved under an agreement like this one."

"We don't have numbers and so I can't say that it would have achieved that yet," she said. "This isn't anything that the US could support at this point in time."

"It is a difficult decision and the US government would never take a position that would support commercial whaling or endorse it. But on the other hand, right now we have no way to stop it," she said.

According to Medina, the Florida talks would lead to a more concrete proposal to be finished by April 22.  This would give nations time to review it before the IWC meets in Morocco the following month.

She said that the deal would require three-fourths of the votes to be approved.

Many environmentalists have said that the deal would reward whaling nations for the defiance, which could effectively end the moratorium.

Australia has been leading the fight against whaling, threatening to take legal action against Japan unless it sets a date to end its annual expeditions in the Antarctic.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the compromise was unacceptable to Australia, who wants to end Japan's Antarctic whaling expeditions all together.

However, a Melbourne-based newspaper reported on Friday that Canberra was willing to yield ground by accepting some Japanese whaling in the Antarctic if waters outside of Australia were left alone.


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