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Whaling meeting ends with mixed results

The International Whaling Commission ended its annual meeting on Friday amid dissatisfaction from a variety of members, including Japan, which sought permission for coastal communities to carry out small-scale whaling.

A lack of consensus scuttled a proposal by Monaco to increase protection of whales, and the principality said it would take its case to the United Nations.

Japan threatened to withdraw from the IWC if its proposal continued to be blocked. Denmark issued a similar warning after commission rejected its request for a whaling quota for indigenous groups in Greenland. The commission voted 34-25 to reject the request for a quota of 1,300 whales over the next six years.

The commission, however, approved the renewal of bowhead whale quotas for indigenous subsistence whaling in Alaska and Russia and for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. The six-year extension was approved at the IWC's annual meeting in Panama City.

It also voted to hold meetings every two years.

The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986 due to the threat of extinction for many whale species.

Japan hunts whales for purportedly scientific purposes, which many environmental groups describe as a front for commercial whaling. Nations including the United States and Mexico say research can be carried out on whales accidentally caught in fishing boats' nets.

The Whaling Commission still must consider a proposal by South Korea to resume purportedly scientific whaling, which the U.S. and other countries are expected to oppose when it is formally presented at a meeting of the IWC's scientific commission next year.

"Korea's proposal will be pending and is sure to be fiery," said Cheryl McCormick, executive director of the American Cetacean Society. "All eyes are on Korea right now ... the guise of going hunting for hunting for whales in the name of science is a complete fallacy."

Another continuing issue is a proposal by European and Latin American countries, plus the U.S., to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic. That was also rejected at the Panama meeting.

At last year's meeting, Japan and other pro-whaling nations walked out to protest the proposal for a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic.

The proposal would put whales off limits to hunters in the Atlantic south of the equator. It has failed to win approval at several previous IWC meetings.

McCormick described the meeting as "a mixed bag for whales."

"The NGO community would have liked for the sanctuary to be passed, that's unquestionable, but plenty of us are not shedding any tears over the fact that Denmark didn't get an increase on its quota," she said.