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Fifteen nations ask Japan to stop research whaling
TOKYO (Reuters) -- Representatives of 15 countries have urged Japan, the world's largest consumer of whale meat, to halt its research whaling, Kyodo News Agency reported Monday.
Japan has drawn fire from non-whaling nations and conservationist groups for killing hundreds of minke whales each year.
Whale meat has become gourmet food in Japan in the last decade or so, as prices have risen in line with falling supplies after an international moratorium on whaling took effect in 1986.
Kyodo quoted the group's leader, the Irish ambassador to Japan, Declan O'Donovan, as asking Foreign Ministry officials that Japan refrain from whaling in the northern Pacific and in the Southern Ocean sanctuary, in line with resolutions of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
A Foreign Ministry official replied that Japan's current whaling program follows that of the international whaling convention and that he would convey the group's request and concerns to all government sections involved, Kyodo said.
The group included representatives of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Brazil, Britain, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States, it said.
Japan says whaling is for research
Last month, a whaling fleet departed for a Pacific hunt to take minke whales, which were hunted without a break even when whales were at their most protected.
The fleet will also seek out the larger Bryde's and the huge sperm whale, which have been safe from harpoons for years.
The IWC says minke whales are no longer endangered, but debate simmers over the numbers of Bryde's and sperm whales.
Japan gave up commercial whaling in compliance with the 1986 ban but has carried out what it calls "scientific research" whaling since 1987.
At an IWC meeting in Adelaide last month, Japan and Norway blocked an attempt to establish an ocean sanctuary to protect whale breeding grounds in the South Pacific.
In 1965, Japan caught a record 22,000 whales in coastal and Antarctic waters. The number fell to 2,700 by 1987, partly as a result of quotas set by the IWC and partly because of the availability of cheaper sources of protein.
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