Originally published on the Environmental News Network.
Daniel Lovering, Associated Press
Published October 13, 2004 12:00 AM
BANGKOK, Thailand — A Japanese proposal to allow commercial trade in minke whales, protected under a global treaty, was firmly rejected by delegates at an international wildlife meeting Tuesday, conservationists said.
The request to hunt three populations of the mammals was turned down by a majority of delegates at a two-week conference of the 166 signatory countries of the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Japan had argued that because minke whales in the West Pacific and Northern parts of the Atlantic number more than 200,000 — among a global population of 1 million — they are plentiful and should not be considered threatened by trade.
Minke whales were increasingly killed starting around the 1930s, when larger whales became scarce or near-extinct from decades of large-scale hunting.
Japan and Norway have floated similar proposals at past meetings but were rebuffed, partly because of efforts to make the treaty consistent with the industry’s regulatory body, the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986, but Japan and Iceland have continued to hunt whales under a scientific program permitted by the commission. Environmentalists say those programs amount to commercial whaling. Norway has rejected the ban altogether.
Conservationists accused Japan, which claims whale hunting as a cultural tradition, of trying to subvert the whaling moratorium.
“Major uncertainty remains over population trends of the minke whale,” said Susan Lieberman, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s delegation at the Bangkok talks, which end Oct. 14.
But representatives from pro-whaling groups said scientific data was being ignored by the conference, which is meant to regulate trade in wildlife species that are not facing extinction due to trade.
“It’s a travesty,” said Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for Species Management Specialists, a group that has lobbied for the reintroduction of commercial whaling.
Delegates “are making political excuses to ignore the scientific criteria when it’s clear minke whales don’t belong” on a list of species banned from commercial trade because they face extinction, he said.
On Monday, the conference gave the African elephant a new line of defense against poachers by approving measures to crack down on the continent’s illegal ivory trade.
The initiative calls for new law enforcement links between African countries, the global police agency Interpol, customs officials, and airlines that might handle shipments of smuggled ivory.