Sydney: Australia has expressed alarm at growing support for a plan to allow limited commercial whaling, saying it could not accept the proposal before the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
New Zealand, which also opposes whaling, is supporting moves to allow restricted commercial hunts over the next 10 years if it means a big cut to the number of whales currently killed by Iceland, Norway and Japan.
But Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Australia, which has threatened to take Tokyo to the International Court of Justice unless it ceases its annual whale hunts in Antarctica by November, would not accept the deal.
"I am alarmed and very concerned that New Zealand would support a proposal that is flawed and represents a huge compromise to pro-whaling nations," Garrett said.
"Australia cannot support the `compromise package` now being discussed in the IWC," he told reporters on Thursday. Garrett said the approach under consideration, which would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to conduct commercial whaling in exchange for taking a significantly lower catch, was loaded in favour of whaling nations.
"It demands too many first order concessions from those of us who are committed to bringing an end to whaling," he said. Under an IWC moratorium introduced in 1986, commercial whaling was suspended, but Iceland and Norway ignore the edict while Japan uses a loophole allowing lethal scientific research.
New Zealand`s representative to the IWC, Geoffrey Palmer, said Thursday the ban had been unable to stop the growing slaughter of whales and called for a new approach which could drastically reduce the number of animals killed.
"An emotional attachment to a moratorium that is not working is not in my view realistic," said the former New Zealand prime minister, who chairs an IWC group trying to negotiate a deal.
Australia said ahead of IWC talks in the United States last month that the commercial whaling proposal was unacceptable as it did not stop Japanese whaling in the Antarctic.