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Japan to host first unofficial meeting of global whaling body next month

Japan to host first unofficial meeting of global whaling body next month

Japan will host an unofficial meeting for International Whaling Commission members focussing on the status of whale populations, an official said Friday, as Tokyo continues to push for an end to the IWC's commercial whaling ban.
Japanese officials say IWC meetings tend to focus too much on whether whaling itself is good or bad, leaving little room for discussion on the current status of the world's whale "resources."
"Nothing has been decided at IWC meetings ... and our positions are split from the beginning," said Hideaki Okada, an official of Japan's Fisheries Agency, which announced the Feb. 13-15 conference.
"We want to create an atmosphere in which we can reduce confrontations as much as possible and have more serious, honest talks," he said, adding that the Tokyo conference may produce a recommendation to the IWC.
The announcement of the conference comes amid news reports that Britain, which largely opposes whaling, is trying to recruit more non-IWC member countries into the IWC's anti-whaling faction.
Tokyo maintains that whaling is a national tradition and a vital part of its food culture. It says whale stocks have sufficiently recovered since 1986 to allow a resumption of limited hunts among certain species.
Japan kills hundreds of whales each year under an IWC-allowed scientific research program, which opponents decry as commercial whaling in disguise. Meat from whales killed under the program is sold.
For the year ending March 2007, Japan said it would catch about 1,460 whales from the Antarctic area, and from Pacific Ocean waters northwest of Japan, as well as coasts near the country.
The planned conference will study ways to restore the IWC's functions "as a resource control body," Japan's Fisheries Agency said in a statement. It did not elaborate.
At an IWC meeting in St. Kitts last year, several pro-whaling nations narrowly passed a symbolic resolution to support ending the group's commercial whaling ban.
However, an IWC resolution to officially end the commercial ban would require a 75-percent majority vote.
Japan has invited all 72 IWC member countries _ including strongly anti-whaling Australia, Britain and the U.S. _ to the planned meeting next month.
Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Britain would not be attending the meeting in Tokyo next month, and that many other anti-whaling nations also would stay away.
Okada refused to say how many countries have agreed to attend, saying the agency is still tallying up applications.
The conference, held outside the official IWC framework, is the first of its kind. Okada said.
It comes as Britain tries to recruit new countries to the IWC's anti-whaling camp, amid fears that the commercial hunting ban is under growing threat from a Japan-led campaign, Kyodo News agency reported.
Britain's Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw will invite representatives from about 25 countries, which are not current IWC members, to a meeting in London next week. The conference has been organized in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Kyodo reported Thursday.


Updated : 2021-04-20 09:07 GMT+08:00