I'm both surprised and disappointed that 26 out of the 72 member nations of the IWC would refuse to attend this meeting. I could imagine that the hard-core anti-whalers of New Zealand, Australia and the UK might, but even the USA?Boycott may loom over Japan meeting on whalingSource: Reuters
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Japan has called a special meeting of members of an international whaling group next month to help lift a global moratorium on hunting of whales, but several countries opposed to the practice may boycott the assembly.
The absence of anti-whaling nations from the meeting of members of the International Whaling Commission could leave the future of the world body in doubt.
Japan, which with other pro-whaling nations has long argued that the fractious IWC is no longer functional, offered last year to host a first-ever gathering to "normalise" the group.
The meeting, to be held from Feb. 13 to 15 in Tokyo, was officially announced on Thursday, just a day before international environmental group Greenpeace will set sail from New Zealand to again confront Japanese ships in the Southern Ocean which are carrying out what it calls scientific whaling.
Invitations were issued to all 72 IWC members, but so far only a handful of anti-whaling nations have said they will attend, Fisheries Agency official Hideki Moronuki said.
Some 26 anti-whaling nations, including Australia, have agreed to boycott the meeting, an Australian government official was quoted by the Fairfax newspapers in Australia as saying. Australian officials were not available for comment.
"It's really a shame if that occurs, and would make it very hard to see how the IWC proceeds from here on," Moronuki said.
"We're saying that we want to normalise, but if that article is true our opponents have chosen confrontation over conversation, and the meaning of the IWC is lost," he added.
The IWC presides over the fate of the Earth's largest creatures, which were almost driven to extinction before the whaling ban in 1986.
But the group is bitterly divided between countries that think whales still need to be protected, such as Australia, Britain and New Zealand, and countries that think some species are sufficiently abundant to be hunted again.
Japan, which leads the pro-whaling bloc and has gathered powerful support from African, Pacific and Caribbean nations, has killed thousands of whales since 1986 under a scientific whaling programme. Iceland and Norway ignore the moratorium and conduct commercial whaling.
Activists took a dim view of the renewed push for whaling.
"I think that there are things about the IWC that need to be changed, that need to be brought into the 21st century, but commercialisation is not one of them," said Bunny McDiarmid, executive director of Greenpeace New Zealand.
Some Japanese politicians have said leaving the IWC cannot be ruled out at some point in the future if nothing changes.
Labels: IWC Normalization
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