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Little hope of compromise on whaling

THE International Whaling Commission began discussing a possible compromise deal yesterday that would reduce the number of whales killed each year.

However, environmental groups expressed little hope of a breakthrough in the two-decade dispute at the start of the IWC's weeklong annual meeting in Portugal's Madeira islands. Japan, Iceland and Norway run commercial whaling operations which kill around 2,000 whales a year and are reluctant to give up the trade.

Anti-whaling countries including the United States, the European Union and Australia want to tighten the restrictions introduced by a 1986 moratorium.

The Japanese fleet hunts in Antarctica and the northwestern Pacific Ocean under an IWC exemption for scientific research. Japan's government also argues that the international ban on commercial whaling violates its cultural traditions.

Critics say the research program is merely a cover for commercial whaling.

Delegates from more than 80 countries are examining an IWC compromise under which Japan would swap part of its Southern Ocean research quota for permission to hunt in its coastal waters.

"I don't think this is the meeting of the breakthrough," Remi Parmentier of the US-based Pew Whales Conservation Project.

And Greenpeace campaigner Sara Holden feared the talks would fail to end the long-standing stalemate.


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