Japan calls for resumption of commercial whaling


The International Whaling Commission (IWC) opened its annual plenary session today with a call by host Japan to allow the resumption of commercial whaling.

Japan wants the IWC to lift its global ban on commercial whaling during the session in the seaside city of Shimonoseki, about 515 miles south-west of Tokyo.

But delegates may not even vote on commercial whaling this year because of wide gaps remaining over how to achieve sustainable hunts.

Only a simple majority is needed for approval of most issues that go to an IWC vote, but any important ballot - including the question of whether to lift the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling - would require a three-fourths majority.

Earlier today, anti-whaling countries accused Japan of using research whaling hunts to support its position that whale numbers are growing too fast and threatening fish stocks.

"We ask Japan and others to stop spreading false claims," US delegation leader Mr Rolland Schmitt said, adding "the real reason for the decline is overfishing, not whales". Mr Schmitt was supported by representatives from Britain, New Zealand, Mexico and Brazil, who urged Japan to stop its research hunts.

Opponents call Japan's research programme commercial whaling in disguise, as the meat is sold and most of it ends up in restaurants.