In the days leading up to the St. Kitts meeting, environmentalists and antiwhaling nations feared Japan had finally secured enough votes to give the commission a pro-whaling majority and begin chipping away at the commercial whaling ban.
These fears were temporarily allayed on Friday when a motion failed to remove from the agenda discussion of conserving small whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
Three other pro-whaling motions also failed, including a move to make IWC votes secret, a call for the exemption of some coastal Japanese communities from the commercial-whaling moratorium, and a proposed resolution to cancel the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Established by the IWC in 1994, the sanctuary includes the waters around Antarctica. Japan, however, continues to hunt minke whales within the sanctuary.
Japan "lost because some countries that vote with them either had not arrived or [not] paid their dues," Duke University's Read said.
Antiwhaling nations and environmental groups say Japan has lobbied small African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries to side with it on the IWC in exchange for Japanese financial aid.
(See "Pro-Whaling Countries Poised to Take Over Commission" [June 16].)
While Japan denies the charge, Read said the outcome of Sunday's vote "has been expected for some time, as Japan has been encouraging and enticing countries to join the IWC and vote with it to overturn the moratorium."
Glenn Inwood, a spokesperson for the Japanese delegation at the St. Kitts meeting, told the Associated Press that Sunday's vote was a "historic moment."
"It's the first serious setback for those against whaling in years. It's only a matter of time before the commercial ban is overturned," he said.
Duke's Read said the vote does signal a change.
"If more countries who are going to vote with Japan join the IWC, within the foreseeable future we could see the end of the moratorium and resumption of commercial whaling," he said.
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