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Japan Loses Whale Bid at UN Wildlife Trade Talks

Date: 07-Jun-07
Country: NETHERLANDS
Author: Anna Mudeva

Conservation groups hailed the decision by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that came just days after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) upset Japan by confirming its global moratorium on commercial whaling.

Environmentalists credit the 1986 ban for saving Earth's largest creatures from extinction.

"This is a big win for the great whales," Patrick Ramage, global whale programme manager at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement.

"Japan's forum shopping tactics and attempts to resuscitate the whale meat trade have been rejected," he added.

"Today's decision and the strong conservation majority at last week's IWC meeting signal an emerging global consensus for whale conservation in the 21st century."

Japan has asked CITES, whose 171 member nations meet in The Hague on June 3-15, for a full review of the listing of all 13 great whale species on Appendix I, which bans international trade in animal and plant species threatened with extinction.

Japan argued that the species were listed between 1975 and 1986 before CITES member parties adopted scientific criteria. It said the proposal should not be interpreted to mean "there is any interest in harvesting or trading in all of these species".

But conservationists have warned it represents a new strategy by the Japan and its pro-whaling allies to roll back protection for whales and expand trade in whale products.

"This is the fifteenth time whaling nations have tried to reopen trade since 1997, and the fifteenth time they've failed," said Carroll Muffett, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace.

"It's high time they accepted that commercial whale trade has no place in the modern world".

CITES delegates rejected Japan's proposal by an overwhelming majority, confirming the convention's stand against whale trading. CITES also turned down a proposal by Iceland to review the status of the fin whale.

Last week, Japan threatened to quit the International Whaling Commission after fierce opposition from anti-whaling nations forced it to scrap a proposal to allow four coastal villages to hunt the animals.

Japan had argued its proposal to catch minke whales should fall under the umbrella of community whaling because whaling has been part of its culture for thousands of years.

Opponents have said Japan's proposal was a tacit request for permission to resume commercial whaling.

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