Anti-corruption measures debated at whaling talks
ST. HELIER, Jersey (AP) — A British proposal to crack down on alleged vote-buying was among the main items on the agenda as the International Whaling Commission started its annual talks on Monday.
No breakthroughs were expected at the four-day meeting on the larger dispute between anti-whaling nations and a handful of countries who hunt whales despite a 1986 moratorium. Talks on allowing limited commercial whaling broke down last year.
Host nation Britain has proposed reforms to make the commission more transparent and effective. Its proposal would force governments to pay their membership fees by bank transfers, which can be easily traced, instead of cash or checks.
The move comes in the wake of allegations last year that Japan has been using aid money and personal favors to buy votes. Japan denies any wrongdoing.
About 1,500 whales are killed each year by Japan, Iceland and Norway. Japan, which kills the majority of whales, insists its hunt is for scientific research, but more whale meat and whale products end up in Japanese restaurants than in laboratories.
Australia, a leading anti-whaling nation, has launched a complaint against Japanese whaling at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the U.N.'s highest court.
Japanese whalers regularly hunt in Antarctic waters south of Australia, a feeding ground for 80 percent of the world's whales, and the commission has no enforcement powers to stop them.
However, confrontations with anti-whaling activists forced Japan to cut short its annual hunt off Antarctica this year. Protesters threw paint, smoke bombs and rancid butter in bottles toward the Japanese whaling ships. They also got a rope entangled in the propeller on a harpoon vessel, causing it to slow down.
Criticism against Japan was expected to be somewhat muted at the IWC talks this year in the wake of the devastating tsunami and earthquake in March, which caused extensive damage to Japan's fishing fleet and its whaling infrastructure.
Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.