Japan Gets the Nod to Kill Whales Again

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Japan Gets the Nod to Kill Whales Again

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By Geoffrey Lean on Telegraph.co.uk
February 2010

Conservationists fear that a deal with Japan will lead to other countries starting hunts in their coastal waters, says Geoffrey Lean.

Commercial whaling may soon resume, after being banned for nearly a quarter of a century. Secret talks, to be held in Florida at the beginning of next month, look like finalizing a deal to allow Japan to begin killing the leviathans for gain once more. The deal would go to the International Whaling Commission for approval in June.

World governments agreed to a moratorium on hunting in 1982, after species after species had been driven to the brink of extinction. The halt began five years later, but Japan has exploited a loophole that allows "scientific" whaling, ostensibly for research. It kills about 1,000 great whales around Antarctica annually.

The deal remains under wraps, but is expected to allow the country to whale in its coastal waters. In return, Japan would slightly scale back its Antarctic hunt, but – in another victory for its government – that hunt might be legitimized. Iceland, which also conducts scientific whaling, and Norway, which legally exempted itself from the ban, may also agree to scale back their very much smaller operations.

The idea is that fewer whales would be killed and an anarchic state of affairs brought under control. But conservationists fear that – apart from conceding a principle that represents one of their greatest international victories – the agreement would lead to other countries starting hunts in their coastal waters, and to a worldwide revival of officially sanctioned whaling.