Panel Continues 21-Year Ban on Commercial Whaling

The International Whaling Commission passed a resolution Thursday that upholds a 21-year moratorium on commercial whaling.

The move on the final day of the commission's annual meeting essentially snubbed a symbolic resolution passed by a one-vote majority last year, which said the ban was meant to be temporary and was no longer needed.

Pro-whaling factions lobbied hard against the resolution, saying it would fuel the already tense relations between pro- and anti-whaling nations that have been demonstrated during the four-day gathering in Anchorage.

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The ban, enacted in 1986, aims to protect several vulnerable species. Pro-whaling nations, including Japan, Norway and Iceland, say populations have rebounded and the ban is no longer necessary. Norway and Iceland do not recognize the ban and conduct commercial whaling.

Also Thursday, the commission passed Greenland's revised proposal to increase its aboriginal quota of minke whales to 200, as well as to hunt fin and bowhead whales.

Greenland, a semiautonomous Danish territory, originally wanted to also add humpback whales but met adamant opposition from critics who noted that the huge humpbacks and bowheads have low reproduction cycles.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals claimed anti-whaling nations — particularly the United States, United Kingdom and Netherlands — buckled and pushed the vote over the 75 percent mark it needed to pass.

"It got through by the skin of its teeth," said spokeswoman Leah Garces. "They really let whales down by allowing this to go through."

But while the Greenland proposal passed, the commission failed to reach consensus on Japan's request for limited minke whale hunts by coastal communities with whaling histories.

Japan has long sought "community whaling" status, which would give it quotas similar to indigenous groups.

Japan already kills more than 1,000 whales a year and sells the meat under a scientific research provision allowed by the IWC.

Its delegation said the number of minkes caught in that program could be reduced by the number of whales caught in a community quota program.

When that failed, Japan asked the IWC's scientific committee to develop a method for calculating sustainable catch limits by next year's meeting in Santiago, Chile.

In the meantime, Japan said, it could make "interim arrangements" to help the coastal communities.

That measure also failed. Pro-whaling delgates said they couldn't comprehend why Japan was treated differently from other groups with long traditions of whaling.

"This clearly revealed the dysfunction of the IWC," said Akira Nakamae, an alternate commissioner for Japan. "There is a double standard at play."