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Whale Sanctuary Proposal Fails

New Zealand and Australia failed in their bid to establish a South Pacific whale sanctuary because they relied on emotional rhetoric and not science reports says a US Law Expert. John Howard writes.

Under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling the implementation of a sanctuary must be based on scientific findings and also consider the interests of consumers of whale products and the whaling industry.

"New Zealand and Australia offered no scientific finding justifying a new sanctuary and disregard the requirement that deference be given to existing regulatory measures conserving whale stocks," said University of Washington Professor of Law Emeritus, William Burke.

Environmental groups consider blue, fin, right and humpback whales are the species the most severely depleted in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the International Whaling Commission admits the status of great whales is "poorly known."

Using a recent press release from Australian environment minister Robert Hill the Japanese accused the minister of double standards. Hill had said that conservation of koalas should be based on science.

The Japanese immediately went on the attack with Tokyo's commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Minoru Morimoto saying, " We share Hill's view that wildlife resources should be sustainably managed on the basis of scientific advice and invite him to extend the same principles to the issue of whales."

But Morimoto saved his strongest criticism for the IWC itself which he said failed to do the job it was set up for - to provide for the conservation, development and optimum utilisation of whale resources.

"It (IWC) has prevented all sustainable utilisation of whale resources known to be abundant and it has abandoned all pretence of management," he said.

"Australia and New Zealand cannot expect us to accept its proposals that are based on emotion when it chooses to ignore our whaling culture and heritage," Morimoto added.

Japan had embarked on a fierce public relations campaign to sway opinion prior to the four days of IWC talks in Adelaide.

Of the 35 nations represented at the IWC meeting, the vote against the sanctuary was 18 - 11, with four abstaining and two - Solomon Islands and Spain - not voting.

Now that it has defeated the New Zealand and Australian bid for the whale sanctuary, Japan and Norway will today push for a ban on commercial whaling be lifted.

The Japanese government claims that pro-whaling countries are winning support as whale numbers increased.

"Minke whales and Grey whales are now competing with fishermen and their numbers are increasing too much," Government spokesman, Joji Morishita said.

"More and more people are realising there is lots of information like this which is not appearing in the public domain," he said.

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