Whaling body skirts divisive Greenland request

FUNCHAL, Portugal Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:28pm EDT

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FUNCHAL, Portugal (Reuters) - The International Whaling Commission (IWC) on Thursday postponed a decision on Greenland's request to hunt 10 humpback whales, after failing to create a consensus between pro and anti-whaling nations.

IWC chairman Bill Hogarth said that due to the lack of consensus the body decided to appoint a scientific committee to provide further data on Greenland's request.

Greenland's bid for the aboriginal subsistence hunting has been one of the contentious issues at the IWC annual meeting, as the body struggles to marry views of anti-whaling nations such as Australia and pro-whaling countries Japan, Norway and Iceland.

A day earlier, IWC delegates also failed to find a compromise between pro- and anti-whaling nations on how to merge their views, extending for a year a deadline to decide on the future of the IWC if no agreements can be made.

The Greenland request even split 23 European Union members that usually vote as a bloc against whaling, with sources at the meeting saying Germany and the United Kingdom strongly opposed the bid, while others changed their positions over the week.

"The EU vote was split ... but I think it is good that we now have a scientific group to discuss the Danish wish," German Delegate Gert Lindermann said. Greenland is a self-governing state of Denmark.

Germany believes Greenland has not demonstrated its need for the humpback whaling quota, but said the new committee can be a forum for it do so, he added.

A moratorium on commercial whaling was agreed in 1986, but Japan continues to skirt it for scientific research, while Iceland and Norway, simply ignore it and harpoon whales for commercial use.

Aboriginals in Greenland, Russia and Alaska have, however, special permissions to hunt whales for subsistence ends. Greenland has a quota to hunt 200 mink whales, 19 fin whales and 2 bowhead whales every year.

Some conservation groups believe humpback whales are a vulnerable species, while others say that Greenland is abusing its aboriginal's rights for subsistence whaling.

The IWC decision to postpone Greenland's bid divided conservation groups at the meeting, some welcomed it while others said it was a stalling tactic.

"While we are pleased that the proposal has not been approved, we see the IWC decision to not make a decision on this matter and simply create a panel is simply outrageous," said Nicolas Entrup of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS).

(Editing by Axel Bugge and Matthew Jones)

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