Agadir, Morocc: The International Whaling Commission
began its most important meeting in decades debating whether
to scrap an ineffective 25-year ban on commercial hunting and
instead allow for limited whaling under a more enforceable
Though environmental groups say the 1986 moratorium has
been one of the most successful animal conservation measures
in history, it has failed to prevent Japan, Norway and Iceland
from killing hundreds of whales each year in defiance of the
A proposal before the 88-member commission would allow
the three countries limited whaling in exchange for removing
their rogue status and imposing a 10-year period of
The proposal`s author, IWC Chairman Cristian Maquieira,
has said it would save about 5,000 whales over 10 years,
though he was not attending this week`s meeting due to
Allowing for limited hunting might also reduce the
harassment by conservationists trying to disrupt whale hunts,
sometimes leading to violent clashes at sea.
Within minutes of opening the annual conference, the
commission`s deputy chairman, Anthony Liverpool, adjourned the
open sessions for two days to give pro- and anti-whaling
countries a chance to discuss whether a compromise was
possible. The suspension of the normal agenda was
unprecedented in recent decades, and reflected the
contentiousness of the proposal to lift the ban. The meeting
Many commission members also want international sales of
whale meat halted.
"We want two things: we want to save more whales, and we
want a whaling commission that functions well," Dutch delegate
Marianne Wuite said.
The future of the 65-year-old commission has been
undermined by its inability to stop Japan, Norway and Iceland
from hunting whales.
In 1994 it declared the Antarctic off-limits, but Japan
objected to the sanctuary, and the commission has no mechanism
to ensure compliance or enforce its rules.