The 55th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Berlin, Germany: Japan, angry that the IWC voted to establish a conservation committee, boycotted sessions of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting Tuesday after pro-whale nations backed conservation measures that seek greater protection for the world's largest mammals.
The IWC voted 25 to 20 Monday to create a conservation committee - a decision Japan and Norway and 18 other pro-whaling charge is not the business of the IWC. According to Japan, the business of the IWC is to divide up whaling quotas among member nations.
Japanese IWC officials threatened on Tuesday to pressure Tokyo into withdrawing permanently from the IWC or not paying its fees.
The Japanese delegation has been boycotting sessions of the Berlin talks devoted to whale populations and killing methods.
"We are not interested in how whales are killed. These are just big animals. They have no feelings," said Masayuki Komatsu of the Japanese whaling delegation.
Monday's vote revealed deep divisions in the IWC between pro-whalers, led by Japan and Norway, that wish to reopen commercial whaling and expand the killing and those such as the United States and many European states pushing for greater protection for whales.
The IWC Conservation Committee will make recommendations on tackling threats facing whales, dolphins, and porpoises, including the setting of fish nets that conservationists say ensnare and drown over 300,000 cetaceans each year.
Without offering any peer-reviewed scientific data, Japan continually states that there are over one million Minke whales in the oceans. A Norwegian delegate referred to Minke whales as the "rats of the ocean."
Despite the commercial moratorium imposed in 1986 by the IWC, Japan takes over a thousand whales a year under the guise of scientific research. All of the meat, however, is sold commercially and for great profit
The Japanese, and their paid for voting nations, did succeed Tuesday in rejecting proposals to establish whale sanctuaries in the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans that would have extended protection from the sanctuaries already established in the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean.
The sanctuary proposals received support from a majority of member nations but failed to win the three-quarter backing required. Despite these already established sanctuaries, the Japanese whaling fleet slaughters hundreds of whales each year in the Southern Oceans.
New Zealand, co-sponsors of the South Pacific sanctuary for the fourth consecutive year, said it was disappointed Caribbean countries had not supported a proposal backed by many Pacific island nations.
"We had more sponsors than before. We now have to encourage the list of countries committed to conservation to join this commission," said the New Zealand Minister of Conservation Chris Carter.
Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is predicting that Japanese will simply ignore all the rules and will continue whaling. "As far as I am concerned, the Japanese whaling fleet has been operating illegally since 1987. They have annually violated the commercial moratorium. They are killing in the established Southern Oceans Sanctuary and they are targeting the protected Antarctic Minke whale. I think that New Zealand, Australia, and France should stop trying to expand the Sanctuaries for now, and should focus on the conservation of the existing Sanctuaries. All three nations have naval vessels in the areas concerned and all three nations should intervene against Japanese illegal whaling activities in the Southern Oceans."