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Some IWC members urge Japan not to expand whaling

Some IWC members urge Japan not to expand whaling
TOKYO - A group of member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) yesterday urged Japan not to expand its whaling programme, underscoring the stiff opposition to Japanese attempts to end the whaling ban.
Japan, which conducts what it calls scientific research whaling, has long pushed for the lifting of the 16-year ban on commercial whaling and hopes to win backing at a meeting of the 43-member IWC now under way in the southwestern Japanese city of Shimonoseki. The issue has sparked worldwide controversy and 18 members of the IWC issued statement saying they \"strongly reject\" Japan\'s recently announced plans to expand research whaling. \"As member states of the IWC, our governments consider Japan\'s actions as undermining the authority of the IWC, and as designed to undo the decades of progress that have achieved the substantial level of protection that whales enjoy today,\" they said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy. \"Our governments reaffirm their strong commitment to the conservation of whales, while at the same time rejecting commercial whaling,\" they said. Japan and fellow whaler Norway are pressing for an end to the IWC\'s ban on commercial whaling, but face a difficult task in winning the three-quarters majority vote needed to achieve that. Japan has raised a furore by announcing plans to expand its research whaling programme to include sei whales, said by conservationists to be endangered. Signs of the controversy were apparent when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Australia and New Zealand this month to be greeted by Greenpeace protesters carrying banners urging him to \"Save face, stop whaling\". Under the plan that Japan has submitted to the IWC, Japan\'s northern Pacific fleet hopes to take 150 minkes, 50 Bryde\'s whales, 50 sei whales and 10 sperm whales in the coming season. \"The...programme represents a major expansion of Japan\'s whaling operations,\" said Tuesday statement from the 18 IWC members, including Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Britain and the United States. The note was handed to Shigeo Uetake, Japan\'s senior vice foreign minister. Japan\'s whaling plan has sparked criticism from environmental groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature, which considers the 12 to 17 metre pointed-snout sei whales an endangered species. Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 in line with an IWC moratorium, but began what it calls scientific research whaling the following year. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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