24 Jun 2010

Global whaling talks break down

2:58 pm on 24 June 2010

International whaling talks have collapsed and will be suspended for a year, delegates to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) say.

The 88-member commission has been debating a draft deal to suspend a 24-year moratorium on commercial whaling for 10 years in return for gradual cuts over the period in the number of whales killed.

Acting IWC chairman Anthony Liverpool said too many major issues remained to be resolved.

These include the status of the moratorium, the number of whales that might be killed during a temporary suspension, the status of clauses which allow countries to opt out of decisions taken by the commission, and whether whale products can be traded internationally.

New Zealand's representative to the IWC, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, told Morning Report it's not clear how much whaling there will be this year in the Southern Ocean.

He says everyone wants to continue the negotiations but no-one has any bright ideas on how to do so.

Many anti-whaling nations, including Australia, have called on Tokyo to stop hunting altogether in the Southern Ocean, declared a whale sanctuary in 1994, but Japan's spokesman said that wasn't going to happen.

Iceland, Norway and Japan have continued to use legal loopholes to sidestep the ban, harvesting more than 1,500 of the marine mammals in the 2008-2009 season alone.

At the talks, Japan said it had offered to halve its self-set quota of whales, give up its right to opt out of commission decisions and allow international observers on board whaling vessels.

Green groups reacted angrily to the collapse of the talks, which they blamed on inflexibility by Tokyo.

Greenpeace New Zealand says the failure retains the status quo, with Japan, Iceland and Norway setting their own whale quotas and a moratorium on paper only. The World Wildlife Fund says Japan is not willing to compromise.