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Anti-Whaling Nations Lose Bid for 2  New Sanctuaries - 2003-06-17

Nations opposed to whaling have failed in a bid to set up two new ocean sanctuaries for the mammals, one day after the International Whaling Commission approved a plan to strengthen whale protection.

At the commission's annual meeting in Berlin Tuesday, a majority of members voted in favor of proposed sanctuaries in the South Pacific and the South Atlantic. But the controversial proposals failed because they did not get the required backing of three-quarters of the commission's 50 member nations.

New Zealand and Australia were pushing for the Pacific protection zone, while Brazil and Argentina wanted one in the Atlantic. They said the additional zones, which would bring the worldwide total to four, are needed to allow endangered whale species a chance to recover from overhunting.

The defeat was revenge for Japan, Norway and Iceland. Those three countries opposed the whaling commission's Monday decision to step up protection efforts.

Japan said it may quit the commission over the vote, which set up a conservation committee to recommend measures to protect whales against such threats as pollution and climate change.

The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Japan has an exemption to conduct what Tokyo calls research hunts that gauge the impact of whale herds on fisheries stocks. The meat often ends up in Japanese restaurants.

Norway ignores the ban.

Japan says whaling is important for scientific research.