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Pacific News Minute: Japan Proposes Resumption of Commercial Whaling at Meeting in Brazil

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At a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Brazil today, Japan will propose a series of changes to effectively lift the worldwide ban on commercial whaling. The moratorium took effect in 1985.

Just a couple of weeks ago, three Japanese whalers returned from a voyage to the North West Pacific with 177 whales. This was just the latest in a long series of such expeditions.

Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales under objections filed against the IWC moratorium back in 1986, but their activities are dwarfed by Japan, which justifies its whaling as scientific research. Japan does not hide the fact that whale meat collected in the name of science is sold as food.

Hideki Moronuki, an official at Japan’s Fisheries Agency, told Agence France Presse that Japan will ask the IWC conference to establish commercial quotas for whale species whose stocks are now regarded as healthy. He would not specify which ones, or how many. 

Japan will also propose a major change in how the IWC operates, lowering the threshold to approve any change from a three-quarters agreement, to a simple majority.

But that change will need a three-quarters majority, and  Dan Rothwell, an IWC expert at The Australian National University told The Guardian Australia there’s very little chance that Japan’s proposals will be approved.

While the popularity of whale meat continues to decline in Japan, many conservatives resent what they regard as outside interference in longstanding cultural practices. Australia has been among the most vocal of Japan’s critics and Canberra’s new Environment Minister, Melissa Price told the Guardian that will not change. “We continue to call on Japan to end whaling.”

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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