The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has failed to resolve the increasingly heated debate over Japan’s whaling programme and needs to be thoroughly reformed, organisers of a conference on the dispute have said.
The IWC – the world body regulating the hunting of many species of whales – has been paralysed by a clash between pro- and anti-whaling countries and both sides are dissatisfied with its performance, participants said.
Joshua Reichert, managing director of the US-based Pew Environment Group, which sponsored the conference, said the dispute threatened to spill over into other aspects of Japan’s foreign relations.
“Ongoing disagreement over conservation of the world’s whales has continued to escalate and has reached a crisis point that’s negatively impacting relations between Japan and other nations,” Reichert told a news conference. The two-day symposium concluded on Thursday.
The IWC’s annual meetings in recent years have been a face-off between pro-whaling nations led by Japan and anti-whaling countries, including Australia and the United States.
Japan expanded its hunt this season to include humpback whales, but backed down in December amid a storm of opposition. Activists have harassed its whaling fleet, and Australia has dispatched a ship to track the hunt.
While participants in the Pew conference, including government officials, scientists and environmentalists, agreed the current system for managing the world’s whales is broken, they stopped short of recommending specific IWC reforms.
Environmentalists, for instance, oppose the IWC-permitted scientific research program that enables Japan to kill about 1,000 whales a year. They also want the IWC to better protect a whale sanctuary in the Antarctic from scientific whaling.
Japan, on the other hand, accuses the IWC of ignoring scientific evidence that certain species of whales – such as minkes – are plentiful enough to be hunted without threat of extinction.
Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the chairman of the symposium, said a resolution of the row could include a recognition of wider hunting rights by Japan’s coastal whalers, suspension of research whaling, and a limit on the number of animals that whaling nations can kill each year.