The International Whaling Commission renewed a five-year whaling quota for indigenous people in the United States and Russia Tuesday, allowing Alaska Natives to continue hunting bowhead whales for subsistence purposes.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The International Whaling Commission renewed a five-year whaling quota for indigenous people in the United States and Russia Tuesday, allowing Alaska Natives to continue hunting bowhead whales for subsistence purposes.
By a consensus vote, Alaska Natives and the indigenous people of Chukotka, Russia, were allocated a shared catch limit of 280 bowhead whales over a period ending in 2012. The proposal maintained previous catch limits.
The whaling commission is holding its annual meeting near the icy coasts where Alaska Natives use whale meat as a staple in their diet and for cultural practices. The commission's U.S. delegation said its top priority was to obtain a renewal of their quota.
Japan supported the renewal of aboriginal whaling quotas, but Joji Morishita, Japan's deputy whaling commissioner, asked for "consistency" from the organization when it raises a proposal to allow hunting of minke whales by four of its small coastal communities.
Japan has said its proposal should fall under the umbrella of community whaling, because whaling has been part of its culture for thousands of years.
But Shane Rattenbury, Greenpeace International's head delegate, called the proposal "another example of commercial whaling in disguise."
Japan is expected to offer its coastal whaling proposal Wednesday. Anti-whaling nations have already voiced opposition to the proposal.
SANCTUARY FUELS DEBATE
The diplomatic tone of the meeting turned testy after Brazil and Argentina proposed the creation of a South Atlantic whale sanctuary that would extend from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa.
Iceland, which opposes the sanctuary, said the proposal runs contrary to the commission's conventions. Pro-whaling nations argue that sanctuaries do not take into account scientific findings about growing whale stocks.
Brazil has proposed the sanctuary every year since 1998, but it has failed to get 75 percent of the votes needed to create a zone free from whaling in the South Atlantic Ocean. The only two sanctuaries that exist today are in the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic, or Southern, Ocean.
The debate will continue and the proposal is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday.
Another unresolved matter was a separate proposal by Greenland to expand its indigenous hunting of minke whales. The Danish territory also wants to include humpback and bowhead whales into the annual hunt.
"It is necessary for the needs of the local people of Greenland that have never been met by the IWC quotas of the last 20 years," said Amalie Jessen, a delegate from Greenland, told Reuters. "Eating Westernized food is not healthy."
The proposal, made by Denmark, calls for an increase of western Greenland's minke whale catch limits by 25 a year to 200 and the creation of an annual hunting quota of 10 humpback whales and two bowhead whales.
Anti-whaling nations said it would support the status quo for Greenland's catch limits, but said there was not enough scientific evidence to accept that an increase in catch limits would be sustainable. The vote was pushed back indefinitely to let Greenland do more negotiations for its proposal.
Other indigenous communities that maintained the status quo for catch quotas had their renewals passed by consensus vote.
The commission also renewed Russia's and the United States' aboriginal catch limits for gray whales in the North Pacific and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean also got a five-year catch quota of four humpback whales a year renewed.