- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

SHIMONOSEKI, Japan (AP) Delegates to the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting dealt pro-whaling nations a setback yesterday, rejecting Iceland's bid for full membership. Iceland responded by hinting it might resume commercial whaling without approval.
Japan opened the meeting by again calling for an end to the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
"I sincerely hope that this meeting in Shimonoseki will induce IWC member nations to not make exceptions of whales and to regard them in the same light as other living marine resources," said Japanese Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Tsutomu Takebe. Shimonoseki, a seaside city some 515 miles southwest of Tokyo, was once the heart of Japan's own whaling business.
Iceland, a nonvoting observer at the commission, has abided by the commission's worldwide ban on whaling in a bid to join the organization.
But yesterday, the IWC rejected Iceland's membership application for the second year in a row.
The snub was seen as an initial victory for anti-whaling forces because Iceland's membership could have given the pro-whaling nations the simple majority needed just to discuss lifting the ban.
A three-fourths majority would be required to end the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. The IWC has 48 full-fledged member nations, including six that have joined in the last month.
Divisions run deep within the 56-year-old IWC, which pits whaling nations against those backing environmentalists who are opposed to what they see as the slaughter of endangered and intelligent mammals.
Other topics on the agenda at the conference, which ends Friday, were methods of killing whales, aboriginal whaling and a proposed whale sanctuary.
Iceland was given nonvoting observer status since its delegates walked out of an IWC meeting 10 years ago to protest the commission's anti-whaling stance.
Japan argues that whale herds have expanded considerably since the 1986 ban. A year after the ban, Japan began annual hunts of hundreds of whales, insisting they were unavoidable if the mammals' feeding, aging and migration patterns were to be studied.
Research hunts are allowed under the ban, but opponents call Japan's research program commercial whaling in disguise, because the meat is sold and most of it ends up in restaurants.
"We ask Japan and others to stop spreading false claims," U.S. delegation leader Rolland Schmitt said.
This year, Japan plans to catch 260 whales, including 50 sei whales a species that has remained untouched for 26 years during hunts in the Northwest Pacific. The planned catch is higher than the 246 killed there the past two years. Japan also hunts around 400 minkes annually in the Antarctic.

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