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Controversial whale compromise rejected

372264702_51f5ce5c4b cropped.JPGJapan and Australia have both rejected a proposal from the International Whaling Commission that would allow commercial whaling and, in the process, reduce the number of whales killed each year.

Japan, Iceland, and Norway have hunted over 33,000 whales since the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, and the latest proposal would have brought all whaling under the control of the IWC, which would have set 10 years of “scientifically determined” catch limits (see recent Nature coverage).

Under the proposal, about 400 Antarctic minke whales would be taken every year for the next five years and then half that until 2020. But Japan presently hunts 935 minke annually and Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Hirotaka Akamatsu has called the proposed cut “too drastic” (Japan Today).

At the other end of the spectrum, anti-whaling Australia has maintained that the proposal falls “well short” of an acceptable result and will “continue to argue vigorously that whaling should be phased down to zero, with total and permanent elimination of all whaling, other than aboriginal subsistence whaling, within a reasonable timeframe” according to a memo from IWC Commissioner Donna Petrachenko.

Yesterday, Australia’s Peter Garrett, minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, announced his objections to the IWC compromise and outlined Australia’s more conservative proposal that “explicitly calls for the maintenance of the moratorium and rejects the use of interim measures dressed up as the ‘best available science’ to determine whale quotas for the ten year duration of the package”.

But according to IWC chair Cristian Maquieira some whaling will be the price to pay for the total reduction of whales killed. He told the Washington Post: “I don’t think anybody will be happy with the numbers…”

There are less than two months before the annual IWC meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, AP reported that federal prosecutors have moved to dismiss charges against (now-closed) The Hump sushi restaurant in Santa Monica that admitted serving illegal and endangered whale meat (see recent Nature coverage).

Image: Minke whale by mickellr via Flickr creative commons.


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