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  BBC 17 Jun 06
Japan to table whaling 'roadmap'

Channel NewsAsia 17 Jun 06
Japan mulls comeback after whaling defeat

FRIGATE BAY, St Kitts and Nevis : Japan was mulling a riposte after the "Save the Whales" lobby thwarted its first bid to wrest control of the world body frustrating its commercial whaling hopes.

Tokyo was expected to use weekend sessions at the International Whaling Commission's (IWC)'s annual meeting here to push for a return to what it sees as the 70-nation body's core role of 'managing' whale stocks for exploitation, and to take aim at its foe Greenpeace.

Japan was reexamining its tactics after whaling opponents Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Brazil and Britain led resistance to its drive for a simple majority of pro-whaling states in the first two IWC votes.

Their triumph Friday came as a surprise, as many activists and ministers had voiced dark predictions of a Japanese victory.

"So far we have managed to dodge the harpoon, but let's see how things go for the rest of the week," said Dr. Joth Singh of the International Fund for Animal Welfare at the IWC annual meeting in this Caribbean state.

WWF spokeswoman Joanna Benn told AFP that it was still "too early to tell" if the pro-whaling drive at the IWC would be stalled for another year.

Tokyo has made repeated bids to lead pro-whaling nations to power in the IWC, but this year, both sides of the argument believed Japan's time had come.

A two-decades-old moratorium on commercial whaling is not under immediate threat -- it needs a 75 percent majority in the IWC to be overturned. But whaling opponents fear a simple voting majority here would enable Japan to turn the IWC from conservation back into a "whaling club."

Japan argues the moratorium on commercial whaling has been so successful that whaling of certain species can now be carried out without harming whale stocks.

Currently, Japan conducts "scientific whaling" which is permitted by the IWC, along with Iceland. Norway rejects the moratorium entirely. In all around 2,000 whales are taken globally per year.

Japan was expected to initiate discussion on its plan for "normalisation" of the IWC. It was expected to meet stiff resistance from states like Australia and New Zealand, which are pushing for a "modernisation" of the body, arguing that whale slaughter, however limited, has no place in the modern world.

They argue, backed by conservationists, that the original mandate of the IWC, set up to check overharvesting of whales, is out of step with modern attitudes on conservation.

A new showdown was looming meanwhile between Japan and Greenpeace, as the iconic Green group vowed to set sail to disrupt whale hunts later this year and Tokyo aimed a diplomatic shot across its bows.

Greenpeace said it would again engage Japan's whaling fleet in the frigid Southern Ocean, after a collision between one of its boats and a Japanese whaling vessel in January.

Japan meanwhile was believed to be preparing a resolution calling for Greenpeace to be stripped of its observer status at the IWC over the incident.

Ian Campbell, Australia's environment minister said Friday's rearguard action by whaling opponents had pushed the threat to the moratorium "down the line." "The great victory for whales we have had today so far, is we have raised the levels of understanding of this issue to levels which have probably not been seen since the 1970s."

The demise of Japan's plans was put down to the absence of Togo and Gambia. Sources told AFP both would have been in Japan's camp, but they did not show up in time. Both states, as well as Senegal, who was also absent were thought to be ready to vote later in the meeting, which ends on June 20.

As it was, Friday, a proposal to introduce secret balloting failed by 33 votes to 30.

A second vote to bar the IWC from discussing measures to protect small cetaceans, such as porpoises and small whales was also narrowly defeated -- by 32 votes to 30 with one abstention.

Both items were considered key to Japan's attempt to establish a solid pro-whaling majority on the commission for the first time since the moritorium came into force two decades ago. - AFP

BBC 17 Jun 06
Japan to table whaling 'roadmap'
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News website in St Kitts

Japan is to table its proposal for a move towards a return to commercial whaling on day two of the International Whaling Commission annual meeting. It says future whaling would be sustainable, with safeguards including independent observers and set quotas.

On the first day of the meeting in St Kitts, Japan lost two key votes, one which would have ended IWC work on conserving dolphins and porpoises. But new arrivals could tip the balance of power. At the end of the first day delegates from Togo and Cameroon arrived and paid their subscriptions, entitling them to vote.

As Japan lost the two first-day motions narrowly - one by two votes, the other by three - it may expect to fare better if it puts its proposals to a vote on day two.

Japan has said it will consider leaving the IWC if it does not move back towards an eventual resumption of commercial whaling, a process which Japan terms "normalisation".

"This organisation was established in order to manage whaling and whale species," said Japan's deputy whaling commissioner Joji Morishita. "To 'manage' means to allow the utilisation of abundant species, under international control, under strict control, while protecting depleted and endangered species."

'No going back'

The proposal can be seen as a "roadmap" towards a return to regulated commercial whaling.

Japan maintains it is not a return to the rapacious practices of the early 20th century, when tens of thousands of whales were hunted each year and stocks of some, notably the blue whale, plummeted towards extinction.

"Then whales were hunted for oil, but no-one hunts for oil now," said Mr Morishita. Hunting for meat, Japan says, would mean catching far fewer whales.

Safeguards envisaged by Japan would include: sustainable quotas monitoring and inspection by enforcement officials a DNA registry or catch certification system penalties for violations

The normalisation document is unlikely to appease the concerns of environmental groups which see it leading to an expansion of hunting.

Stalls on the road

Discussions on an issue closely allied to normalisation, the Revised Management Scheme (RMS), have been going on for 14 years without conclusion.

The RMS discussions would have seen IWC members agree on a roadmap much the same as the one Japan is now proposing; and the suspension of talks in March is a principal reason for Japan now tabling its normalisation ideas.

But if anti-whaling nations could not find common ground with Japan in 14 years of talks, they are unlikely to find any now.

To get around that obstacle, Japan is proposing to host separate talks later this year with countries which see potential in the idea. There is a view in some conservation-minded countries that a small amount of regulated commercial hunting would be preferable to the current situation, which sees Japan and Iceland whaling for what they call "scientific purposes" as permitted under IWC rules, and Norway ignoring the moratorium having lodged a legal objection at its inception.

This amounts to a total catch of about 2,000 whales per year, under what is supposed to be a global ban.

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