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Japan & Norway Resume Whale Meat Trade

Japan & Norway Resume Whale Meat Trade - Conservationists Outraged

SYDNEY, Australia, March 6 /PRNewswire-AsiaNet/ --

In defiance of an international ban on trade in whale products, the Government of Japan announced Wednesday morning in Tokyo that it intends to import Norwegian minke whale meat beginning as soon as April of this year. This commercial trade in whale products is the first in more than a decade, raising the fears of conservation groups worldwide including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW - ) who say this is Japan's most aggressive move to date to revive the international trade.

Japanese officials say they intend to import up to one hundred tons of whale meat once they have obtained permission from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. This announcement comes just two months before the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), to be held in Shimonoseki, Japan.

"This is absolutely outrageous and must be stopped," said Mick McIntyre, IFAW's Asia Pacific director. "Japan and Norway have obviously decided to go their own way, and ignore the rest of the international community. That Japan would undertake this prohibited trade on the eve of hosting an IWC meeting is incomprehensible."

There has been no legal trade in minke whale products from Norway to Japan since 1986 when the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibited international trade. That same year an IWC moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect. Both Norway and Japan showed their opposition to the trade ban by taking reservations on the CITES decision in 1986, and as such are not technically bound by the prohibition. Norway resumed commercial whaling for minke whales in 1993. Since then, Norway has set its own limits for the number of whales taken and catches have increased up to the current catch limit of 674 minke whales set for 2002.

Today's news comes in the wake of the announcement last week by Japanese officials that Japan will expand its ongoing whaling program in the North Pacific to include endangered sei whales as well as minke, Bryde's and sperm whales.

"These audacious decisions are a slap in the face of the international community and decades of good faith efforts to protect and conserve the great whales for future generations. It is time for Norway and Japan to join the rest of the civilized world and abandon plans to return to the dark old days of unregulated industrial whaling and trade in whale meat," Mr. McIntyre said.

Whale meat commands a much higher price in Japan, and there is a much larger market than in Norway. In recent years, Norwegian whalers have sometimes found it hard to sell their catch on the domestic market. In addition, whale blubber is considered a delicacy in Japan but is not eaten in Norway, which maintains a 400-ton stockpile of blubber in hopes of future trade.

To learn more about IFAW visit The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) works to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting wildlife habitats and assisting animals in distress. IFAW seeks to motivate the public to prevent cruelty to animals and to promote animal welfare and conservation policies that advance the well being of both animals and people. SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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