IWC panel postpones decision on Japanese coastal whaling

May 20, 2009 3:14 am 

GENEVA, May 19 — An International Whaling Commission (IWC) panel said Monday it will postpone for one year its decision on whether to allow Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters in return for scaling down or ending its "research whaling" in the Antarctic Ocean.

Japan and anti-whaling nations like Australia were unable to bridge a gap over the proposed compromise, which dashed Japan's hope that whaling in its coastal areas could be approved at the IWC's general meeting in Portugal in June.

The IWC will aim to settle the issue at next year's general meeting after talks at June's general meeting.

According to the proposal, the IWC would allow whale-hunting boats from four traditional whaling ports in Japan — Abashiri in Hokkaido, Ayukawa in Miyagi Prefecture, Wada in Chiba Prefecture and Taiji in Wakayama Prefecture — to catch minke whales in Japanese coastal waters.

In return, the proposal calls for Japan to phase out the hunting of minke whales in the Antarctic for researching their habitat.

In talks at the IWC panel, Japan proposed setting a ceiling of 150 minke whales to be killed by Japan in coastal areas during a five-year provisional period to be set after the IWC reaches an agreement.

The IWC's science committee will begin studying and evaluating Japan's proposal in late May and compile its proposal toward next year's general meeting.

According to a report by Britain's BBC quoting sources close to the IWC panel, Japan also proposed slashing the amount of its catch in its Antarctic whale hunt to 650 from the current yearly ceiling of about 900.

Anti-whaling nations opposed the proposal as it means a cut of only 30 from Japan's actual catch in the previous year, when Japan's catch fell due to obstruction by an US environmental group.

Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday that he will continue trying to make progress in the IWC talks.

Some people in Japan involved in whaling have voiced objection to Japan's membership in the IWC, but Ishiba said Japan has no plans to withdraw from the organization. (PNA/Kyodo)

DCT/vcs/ebp

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