By Kelpie Wilson
t r u t h o u t | Environmental Editor
Wednesday 30 May 2007
Once again, in what has become an annual rite, Japan, Iceland and Norway will try, at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission this week, to overturn the international ban on hunting whales, while a global coalition of whale lovers urges governments to stand firm against the move.
This year the meeting takes place in Anchorage, Alaska, where Japan has introduced a new twist to the debate. Japan is asking the IWC to approve a quota for traditional cultural whaling along its coasts, similar to the quotas in place for traditional subsistence whale hunts in Alaska.
Japan has also announced that it will be going after a self-administered quota of 50 humpback whales in the Southern Ocean next year. Japan began a program of so-called "scientific" whaling in 1987 after the IWC imposed the ban on commercial whaling. Japan kills around a thousand whales every year under this program, mostly the smaller minke whales.
Targeting humpback whales is winning Japan no friends. Humpbacks are one of the most charismatic whale species. Known for their enchanting songs and acrobatic displays, they are a whale watcher's delight.
Australian Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull called Japan's plan to kill humpbacks "needlessly provocative," and warned Japan that its whaling practices have a negative impact on public opinion in Australia.
New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter said, "World opinion is on the side of conservation, and the vast majority of people on Earth don't want to eat whales; they want to protect them at a time of global climate change. You know, killing whales shouldn't be happening."