The organisation that looks after the world’s whales is holding its annual meeting on the island of Madeira, with both whaling nations and conservationists at odds over the number of animals allowed to be caught.
The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, but some countries still have active fleets. Environmentalists will lobby the IWC to restrict any expansion. Patrick Ramage from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: “There are only three countries killing whales for commercial purposes in 2009 – Japan, Iceland and Norway. All of them are represented here and will be trying to continue the expansion of their whaling activities in seeking new permissions. In Japan’s case, for coastal whaling they want to get a new permission from IWC countries to kill whales off their coast in addition to thousands of whales they are killing in north Pacific and the southern ocean sanctuary.” Japan officially observes the commercial ban but catches about 900 whales a year for what it calls research. Opponents say much of the meat ends up on the dinner table. But environmentalists claim demand for whale meat is in decline, and say the fleets would be financially better-off taking tourists on whale-watching tours.