10/27/2016, 18.34
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Proposal to protect whales sunk

A proposal to create an "Atlantic sanctuary" for whales was not approved. Hunting will continue for Japan, Norway and Iceland. For the Japanese commissioner, whaling is sustainable. Preservation is important, but so are traditions.

Portoroz (AsiaNews/France-Presse) – The International Whaling Commission (IWC) met in Portoroz (Slovenia) recently with the participation of all the member states with a stake in the whaling industry.

On Monday (24 October), it discussed a renewed bid by some states to create an Atlantic sanctuary for the endangered marine mammals hunted to near extinction.

The proposal needed a 75 per cent majority, but mustered only 38 yes votes out of 64 cast. Its main adversaries were Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The goal was to create a whale sanctuary of 20 million square kilometres in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Backers say that more than two thirds of an estimated three million whales killed around the world between 1900 and 1999 were taken in southern hemisphere waters.

As one of the main whaling nations, Japan profits from the hunt, whose estimated value is US$ 33 million. This explains why, together with Norway and Iceland, it backs no restrictions on whaling.

In 1986, the IWC imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling, only authorising it in the case of small communities in Greenland and Iceland, or for scientific research.

Norway, which carries out commercial hunts under a formal objection it had lodged to the moratorium, took 736 minke whales in 2014. Despite a drop in whale meat consumption, the latter is processed into feed.

At the meeting, Japanese commissioner Joji Morishita told the IWC that whaling was fully sustainable. He noted that over the past 30 years, many Japanese coastal communities have been unjustly deprived of their main source of livelihood. The latter question was the most debated.

“There is this perception that we are asking (for the) total lifting of the moratorium, that is not the case,” Mr Morishita told delegates.

“We are just asking for a small quota based on science, and of particular species in particular water. That’s it.” The takings would be “exclusively for local consumption” in four coastal communities.

“I think that we all have to remember that those four communities in Japan that have been asking for quota [. . .] have a 5,000-year history of whaling,” Russia’s representative said. “Our task is not only to conserve biodiversity but also to conserve culture and traditions.”

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