Pro-, anti-whaling countries brace for battle at intl commission in Brazil

Source:AFP Published: 2018/9/9 21:48:39

Pro- and anti-whaling nations are set for a showdown when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets in Brazil from Monday as Japan leads an assault on a three-decade-old moratorium on commercial whale hunting.

Tokyo heads into the biennial meeting as chair of the 88-nation body determined to shake up what it says is a dysfunctional organization mired in dispute and unable to make key decisions.

But Japan's package of proposals, entitled "The Way Forward," has left conservationists seething even before delegates have taken their seats at the 67th IWC meeting in the Brazilian surfing resort of Florianapolis.

They say it's a blatant attempt to overturn the 1986 moratorium and restore commercial whaling.

"This meeting is critical," said Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "Member countries must stand together and push progress towards whale protection, not let this commission be pulled back into the bygone era of commercial whaling."

Brazil as host country is instead trying to rally anti-whaling nations behind a "Florianopolis Declaration," which insists that commercial whaling is no longer a necessary economic activity and would allow the recovery of whale populations to pre-industrial whaling levels.

Other key issues being discussed in the week-long meeting are risks to whales of human-made underwater noise pollution, ship strikes, climate change and "ghost-gear" entanglement - where whales are increasingly snared by abandoned fishing gear.

Nations opposed to whaling plan to renew a long-standing proposal for the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, after previous proposals were knocked by the pro-whaling lobby.

Japan formally observes the moratorium but exploits a "scientific research" loophole to kill hundreds of the animals every year, despite international criticism.

It has regularly sought an easing of the IWC's prohibition on commercial whaling, and incoming chairman Joji Morishita says there must be major changes at the Florianapolis meeting in order to break the deadlock between pro- and anti-whaling countries.


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