[MARINE_BIOLOGY_INTERNATIONAL] Japan pushes to kill more whales


(Agence France Presse via The Australian)

Japan pushes to kill more whales
From: AFP July 05, 2012 3:16AM

JAPAN has appealed to resume whaling along its coasts but faced heated opposition from Australia and other nations.

Japan kills hundreds of whales each year on the high seas, infuriating Australia and New Zealand, by using a loophole in a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows lethal research on the ocean giants.

But Japan's whaling is limited near its own shores. In a proposal to International Whaling Commission talks in Panama, Japan called for a resumption of killing minke whales in its eastern coastal waters.

"The IWC's commercial whaling moratorium has caused us and our communities great distress for a quarter of a century," Yoshiichi Shimomichi, head of the Japan Small-Type Whaling Commission, told the conference.

"Our ancestors started utilising beached whales thousands of years ago," he said.

"Whale meat and blubber are integral parts of our culture... with traditional practices handed down from generation to generation."

Australia's envoy Donna Petrachenko strongly criticised Japan's proposal, saying that if approved it would mean "completely undermining the moratorium".

Australia - backed by the United States, New Zealand and most Latin American nations - said that international experts should complete assessments on the minke population before allowing any coastal hunting.

"We think that efforts need to be made to recover this whale population and that states concerned should be putting their efforts into a conservation management plan and building this stock," Ms Petrachenko said.

Faced with opposition, Japan did not immediately seek a vote. Japan could seek a vote before the week-long talks end on Friday after consulting allies.

The Commission could also vote on a proposal by Denmark to extend aboriginal rights to hunt whales including humpbacks in Greenland.

Latin American nations, along with Australia, India and other nations, have opposed Denmark's proposal after environmentalists' charges of a surplus of whale meat in Greenland.

While not killing minke whales, Japan each year kills thousands of other cetaceans unregulated by the International Whaling Commission off its coasts - most notoriously dolphins, which the western town of Taiji spears to death.

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