• Short Summary

    The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) began in the Australian city of Canberra on Monday (20 June).

  • Description

    The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) began in the Australian city of Canberra on Monday (20 June). Representatives of the 16 member nations are to decide how many whales should be killed in the next twelve months. On the day the meeting opened, about 200 protesters went to the Japanese, Canadian and Soviet embassies in London t call for a ten-year moratorium on killing whales. Those countries have opposed such calls in the past.

    SYNOPSIS: Whaling is a major industry in the Soviet Union and Japan. Only five other IWC members -- Australia, Denmark, Brazil, Iceland and Norway -- still maintain whaling fleets. The IWC set an annual kill quote last year of 28,000 whales. And at the opening session of this year's meeting the Soviet Union and Japan expressed their concern at the calls for a reduction in that figure.

    The London demonstrators say that if the present rate of whaling is maintained it will lead to the extinction of certain species. They delivered messages to the embassies of IWC members to support their call for a moratorium. The protest was organised by the environmental group, Friends of the Earth. They claim that the Soviet Union and Japan account for 90 per cent of the whales killed last year but the official figure sets it at 75 per cent. However, the five-day IWC meeting is expected to decide on a reduction of between 4,000 and 6,000 in the world-wide kill quota. The figure has been steadily cut down by the commission since it was formed more than 30 years ago.

    Such a cut would not satisfy the environmentalists. Friends of the Earth and another group -- the Greenpeace Foundation -- say they will step up their campaign to disrupt the summer whaling season. Greenpeace is to launch two ships to harass the whaling fleets of the North Pacific.

    Volunteer crew will take to motorised dinghies to place themselves between the hunted whales and the harpoon guns of the whaling ships. Greenpeace claims to have saved the lives of 1,400 whales in that way last year. This summer, they have the use of a former United States Navy antisubmarine gunboat with a top speed of over 20 knots. Friends of the Earth say the search for sperm whales to be used in transmission systems oil has reduced the species population by as much as 66 per cent. They say that all great whales will be extinct in ten years unless there is a total ban on all whaling throughout the world.

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