|LONDON - The world\'s whales are facing their biggest threat in 15 years as the three whaling nations - Norway, Japan and Iceland - all have their fleets at sea at the same time, environmental activists said.|
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said the Japanese whaling fleet had just left port to hunt for a total of 260 whales ranging from minke to sperm whales, while the Norwegians had already killed 340 minkes from a quota of 670.
It said Iceland had already killed five minkes and aimed to take another 20 within the next two weeks.
\"Far from improving, things are getting worse for the whales,\" IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell McRae said in a statement.
\"Iceland rejoined the whaling community in 2003 after mothballing its fleet for 15 years; and Japan is targeting endangered species including Bryde\'s, sei and sperm whales as well as hunting in an internationally recognized sanctuary in the Southern Ocean,\" she added.
Although commercial whaling was banned worldwide in 1986, Norway refuses to be bound by the ban, with Japan and now Iceland hunting whales for scientific research.
Iceland, which angered environmentalists by resuming scientific whaling last year, has declared its intention of killing 500 whales in 2004/5.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE