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Pro-whaling lobby attacks IWC ban

The  IWC allows Japan to hunt whales for scientific purposes
The IWC allows Japan to hunt whales for scientific purposes

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TOKYO, Japan -- Norway and Iceland have lashed out at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and its continued ban on hunting.

Along with Japan, the pro-whaling nations described the IWC as a travesty and claimed it is on its "last legs."

The IWC's annual meeting in Japan last year left the organisation deeply divided between conservationists and those who want to end a ban on commercial whaling.

On Wednesday, Odd Gunnar Skagestad, Norway's permanent representative to the IWC, said: "The problem is that the organisation and the commission has lost so much of its relevance and lost so much of its credibility that it certainly appears to be on its last legs.

"The IWC is not a club which is ruled by parties observing the rules.

"It's a club which is run by force alone, by the size of the muscles, by the numbers. It's a numbers game."

Stefan Asmundsson, Iceland's commissioner to the group, said: "There's no disguising the fact that there are several very serious problems within the IWC.

"This is a very fundamental divide, and it's very difficult to build a bridge between the two."

Asmundsson and Skagestad were speaking at a special meeting of whaling nations in Tokyo.

Norway carries out commercial whaling despite a 1986 IWC moratorium on such hunting.

Iceland -- readmitted to the group last year -- also intends to resume commercial whaling in 2006 or later.

Japan carries out what it calls "scientific research whaling" but much of the meat from this ends up being eaten.

Japanese Fisheries Agency official Joji Morishita called the commission dysfunctional.

Pro-whaling nations say that while endangered species should be protected, other whales such as the minke are now numerous and that hunting should be permitted, under strict control.

Only Japan has IWC approval for scientific hunts.

Tokyo says its programme, which started in 1987, is research into claims that whale populations have recovered from over-hunting and can again be killed for commercial purposes.

Critics of Japan's research say the hunts are commercial whaling in disguise, because the government sells leftover meat from the killed whales to wholesalers and much of it ends up in restaurants.

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