Japan said Tuesday that it will not accept any proposal at upcoming international whaling talks forcing it to end its lethal research programme.
International Whaling Commission chair William Hogarth has proposed that Japan scale down or stop its whaling in the Antarctic Ocean over the next five years.
In return, some Japanese towns with a tradition of whaling would be allowed to catch a limited number of minke whales in coastal waters, according to the IWC website.
The proposal is designed to lay the groundwork for the IWC’s annual general meeting in June in Portugal.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters that Tokyo “will not be able to accept any proposal that would prohibit Japan from continuing its research whaling.”
Fisheries Agency official Shigeki Takaya said an end to research whaling –which is allowed under the Commmission’s 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling –would be “unacceptable” to Japan.
Japan kills more than 800 whales a year in Antarctic waters and the western North Pacific in the name of scientific research.
In practice, most of the meat from such whaling ends up on Japanese dinner tables, and Australia and other anti-whaling nations regularly accuse Tokyo of using research as a pretext for commercial hunting.
Past IWC meetings have for years seen passionate showdowns pitting Japan, which insists whaling is part of its culture, and is supported by a few other countries, against Australia and other Western nations.
Hogarth, who steps down after the Portugal meeting, persuaded Japan to stay with the IWC and freeze its plans to expand the slaughter to humpback whales, which are a popular tourist attraction in Australia.
There is no easy exit in sight to the gridlock as Australia’s Environment minister Peter Garrett has also rejected the proposed compromise, pledging to bring about an end to lethal research whaling.