From: Reuters
Published May 31, 2006 12:00 AM

Australia Lobbies Pacific Nations against Whaling

CANBERRA — Australia began a last-ditch attempt to lobby small Pacific Island nations to support whale conservation on Tuesday, warning that every vote at next month's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting would be crucial.

Environment Minister Ian Campbell is leading a delegation to Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu to lobby against any move by Japan to try to overturn a moratorium on commercial whaling at the IWC meeting in the Caribbean.

"This year's IWC vote is crunch time for the future survival of whales and every vote will be critical," Campbell said, adding that whale populations were beginning to recover in the southern hemisphere following the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 but began hunting whales the following year for what it calls scientific research. Critics say the whale meat ends up in Japanese restaurants.

Australia is a staunch opponent of whaling and has led international diplomatic efforts to urge Japan to stop whaling in the South Pacific and Southern Ocean.

Campbell said Japan won majority support to resume commercial whaling at the last IWC meeting in South Korea in June 2005, but some countries did not turn up to vote, meaning Japan's proposal was lost.

Kiribati voted with Japan in 2005. Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands are not members of the IWC, but are reportedly considering signing up.

Campbell said an estimated 2 million whales were killed in the southern hemisphere between 1904 and 1986, but some whale populations were slowly recovering.

"Sadly, however, that does not appear to be the case in the Pacific where humpback whale numbers remain low. To even take a few whales from these uncertain populations could jeopardise their recovery in the region," Campbell said in a statement.

Norway broke the whaling moratorium in 1993 and is currently the only nation to permit open commercial whaling. Iceland, like Japan, conducts scientific whaling. These whaling states say whaling is a cherished part of their culture.

The IWC meets in St Kitts and Nevis from June 16 to 20.

Source: Reuters

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