Japan said Tuesday it will reject any proposal by the International Whaling Commission that halts research whaling in the Antarctic, making it unlikely that a compromise plan to open limited coastal whaling would work.
The IWC proposal, suggested by an internal panel, would allow Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters in exchange for phasing out its research whale hunt in the Antarctic Ocean.
Japan quickly said that wasn't good enough.
"We cannot accept a proposal that discontinues our research hunting," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Shigeru Ishiba told reporters.
The world body regulating the hunting of many species of whales has been paralyzed by a clash between pro- and anti-whaling countries.
Japan hunts whales under a study program allowed by international rules, but opponents say the research expeditions are a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986. Japan's whaling fleet, currently in the Antarctic Ocean, plans to harvest up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season.
Ishiba said Japan, although they cannot accept the proposal, will examine it carefully. He declined to elaborate.
According to the proposal, Japan could hunt minke whales at four coastal areas for five years. Hunting would have to be day-trips with no more than five vessels, and all catches would be consumed locally.
In exchange, the proposal calls for a phase-out of hunting minke whales in the Southern Ocean and an end to the hunt of humpback or fin whales in the Southern Ocean. The proposal will be discussed at the IWC's meeting next month in Rome.
Japan has hunted whales for hundreds of years, and the meat is a sentimental favorite of people who lived through the lean postwar years, when whale was the chief source of protein because Japan couldn't afford pork or beef. Whale was a common family dish, and many schoolchildren ate it every day.
It is still easily found in restaurants and canned in supermarkets, but is not a part of a typical home-cooked meal.
Japan has in the past threatened to leave the IWC if the commercial whaling ban is not lifted, and has strongly lobbied for an end to the moratorium.
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006 and is one of only two countries, along with Norway, to authorize fishermen to hunt whales to sell for their meat. Unlike Japan, both countries choose not to recognize IWC rules, which stipulate that whales may be killed for research but not for commercial purposes.© Wire reports