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UN Conference: 'No' to Minke Whale Hunt in Japan - 2004-10-12

A U.N. conference in Bangkok shot down Japan's proposal to expand commercial hunting and trade of minke whales but backed the export of some wite rhinos in Swaziland.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) rejected Japan's intense lobbying for expanded commercial trade and hunting of minke whales.

But Japan vowed keep pushing to ease the trade ban on some populations of minke whales, considered a delicacy in Japan.

The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial trade in minke whales in 1986. After being hunted nearly to extinction in the 1900s, the species has recovered and is now thought to number up to one million.

Will Travers, president of Species Survival Network, which groups together 80 international environmental organizations, says CITES position on the minke whales sends an important message.

"What the parties have done today is reaffirm the position of the International Whaling Commission as the appropriate forum for dealing with the regulation? and CITES should not try to take a superior position on that issue," he said.

CITES backed the export of some white rhinoceros in Swaziland and approved occasional trophy hunting of the mammoth beast.

Just days before, members of the U.N. conference voted to lift a ban on hunting the more rare black rhino in Namibia and South Africa, which outraged conservationists.

Mr. Travers says the two actions could be harmful to both rhino populations.

"I think that may have some serious impacts on the population," he added. "I think this is going to send out a particularly worrying message."

Swaziland has only 61 white rhinos and says it has not lost one to poachers in 12 years. Authorities say because it is a tiny country, the rhinoceros population needs to be kept down. The CITES meeting began October 2 and will end Thursday.