Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whaling talks collapse

Whaling reduction talks collapse amid scandal

AOL News

(June 23) -- Talks on a resumption of commercial whaling broke down today on the third day of an international whaling meeting that's being held under a cloud of scandal and legal disputes.

Japan had hoped to cut a deal at this year's International Whaling Commission summit in Morocco that would allow it to resume commercial whaling for the first time since the mid-1980s, in exchange for trimming its controversial "research" catch in Antarctica. But it reportedly refused to promise an eventual halt to such research whaling, scuttling the deal, according to the New York Times.

A Japanese whaling ship, right, hauls a newly caught minke whale up its slipway
Adam Lau, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society / AP

A quarter-century ban on commercial whaling, one of the world's most successful preservation agreements, could crumble if conservationists cannot persuade Japan to cut back on the tradition it champions. Here, a Japanese ship hauls a whale up its slipway in the Antarctic in 2009.

The breakdown in talks mean a continuation of the status quo -- whereby Japan, Norway and Iceland conduct their controversial, unregulated hunts despite a ban on commercial whaling and heated opposition from environmentalists.

A recent British newspaper report alleging that Japan buys pro-whaling votes from small countries with cash, hotel rooms and hookers sent a frisson through this year's IWC summit.

Meanwhile, Australia, where anti-whaling sentiment runs strong, has raised the stakes in the whaling battle by filing a case against Japan at the world court in the Hague.

Commercial whaling was banned in 1986, but Norway and Iceland have continued to hunt whales under a formal objection to the ban, while Japan has continued its hunt under the guise of "scientific research," which is technically permitted by IWC rules.

Japanese consume an estimated 4,000 to 4,500 metric tons of whale meat every year, including in school lunches in some coastal fishing communities, according to the Japan Whaling Association.

In an interview with Radio Australia, Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for Japan's delegation to the whaling meeting in Morocco, said Japan was willing to cut a deal whereby it would shrink its research catch in the Antarctic in return for being allowed to resume limited commercial whaling.

"Japan is very willing to compromise," Inwood said. "It has made a number of significant concessions to the IWC to this process ... now it's time for anti-whaling countries to bring something to the table instead of digging their heels in, but they're not."

In an interview at his Tokyo office earlier this year, Konomu Kubo of the Japan Whaling Association said, "Japan supports the principle of sustainable whaling, but we do not in the least support the idea of harvesting whales whose numbers are depleted."

"We are groping for some sort of compromise," said Kubo.

He said then that it might not be "realistic" to expect a lifting of the whaling ban this year since three-quarters of the IWC's 88 members would need to support such a move. (Japan is believed to have the backing of just 38 members, according to the Times of London.)

Some scientists and researchers who strongly oppose the killing of whales are even arguing for "whale rights," with one group issuing a declaration in May, according to Al-Jazeera.

In a recent expose, London's Sunday Times reported on the favors allegedly doled out by Japan to countries in exchange for their support on whaling, saying its findings "raises serious questions about the credibility of the IWC."

The Times sent reporters posing as representatives of a fictional Swiss billionaire who opposed whaling to try to lure IWC officials to back an anti-whaling stance. The paper then recorded their responses.

Tanzania's IWC commissioner told the Times that Japan's allies on the IWC were "taken on all-expenses-paid visits to Japan where 'good girls' would be available." The Times published the following exchange:

Reporter: So you think the other countries' representatives are set up with prostitutes from Japan?

[Geoffrey] Nanyaro: Yes, you know, yeah ... It starts by saying: do you want massaging? ... It's going to be free massaging. Are you not lonely? You don't want any comfort?"

Japan has denied any wrongdoing, and says the allegations of vote-buying at the IWC are meant to discredit its position, according to the Associated Press.

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