A proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean was defeated this week at a meeting in Brazil of the International Whaling Commission, or IWC.
Whales are mammals that live in the sea and some are among the largest animals ever to have lived.
The proposal received support from 39 countries but was opposed by 25. That was just a little less than the three-quarters majority needed for approval. Brazil first introduced the proposal in 2001.
Japan and other nations argued that the sanctuary was not needed because countries are not currently doing commercial whaling in the South Atlantic.
Environmental groups and conservationists argued that the sanctuary would protect whales from being hunted, trapped in fishing gear or struck by ships.
Brazilian Environmental Minister Edson Duarte promised to fight for the proposal at future meetings.
“It (is) so important for the conservation of whales around the world but especially in the South Atlantic,” he said.
In addition to Japan, countries opposing the sanctuary included Iceland and Norway. They are pushing for the return of some sustainable whaling and are unlikely to change their vote unless their demand is met.
The commission banned commercial whaling in the 1980s. Japan is proposing to bring it back this year with catch limits. Japan has hunted whales for hundreds of years as a less costly form of meat.
Daven Joseph is ambassador-at-large for Antigua and Barbuda, another nation which voted against the measure. He said the proposal has some value but “is failing year after year because there is a lack of respect for the views of everyone in this organization.”
Joseph said sustainable commercial whaling could provide an important food for developing island nations. And, some countries have a cultural and nutritional use for whale meat that should be respected.
Conservationists say commercial whaling has proved difficult to supervise in the past. They say it threatens whale populations. Some countries say there is simply no place for whaling in the modern world.
But Joseph predicted that progress on many conservation measures would be impossible without compromise.
Several native or ethnic groups also spoke Tuesday in support of their own subsistence hunting. Such hunting is permitted by commission rules. Catch limits for subsistence hunting are up for renewal this year.
“Since childhood, I have been trained to hunt,” said Vladimir Piny, a native Chukchi whaling captain from northern Russia. “I cannot grow tomatoes or bananas. The Arctic would never allow me to do so.”
Japan accuses the IWC of supporting anti-whaling nations rather than trying to reach a compromise.
The subject of commercial whaling has split the IWC for many years and neither side has appeared to be willing to compromise.
The conference ends Friday, September 14.
I’m Lucija Millonig.
Alice Bryant adapted this AP story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
sanctuary – n. a place where someone or something is protected
commercial – adj. concerned with earning money
whaling – n. the act of hunting whales
conservationist – n. someone who works to protect animals, plants, and natural resources
sustainable – adj. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
subsistence hunting – n. hunting that is done only to provide food for people
allow – v. to permit