An effort to create a safe haven for whales in the South Atlantic was defeated Tuesday at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil.
The proposal, which was introduced by Brazil in 2001, received support from 39 countries but was opposed by 25, denying it the three-quarters' majority it needed to pass.
Environmental organizations and conservationists had argued that the sanctuary would not only keep the mammoth mammals safe from hunting, but also protect them from getting entangled in fishing gear or being struck by ships.
But pro-whaling nations, led by Japan, argued there was no need for the sanctuary because no countries were conducting commercial whale hunting in the South Atlantic.
Brazilian Environmental Minister Edson Duarte vowed to push to get the proposal passed at future meetings of the IWC.
"We will work in other meetings of this commission this year to ensure that the sanctuary will finally be created," Duarte said.
Pro-whaling nations, including Japan, Iceland and Norway, are pushing for resumption of sustainable hunting of whales and are unlikely to allow for the creation of a sanctuary unless their demand is met.
Japan, which has pushed for an amendment to the ban for years, accuses the IWC of siding with anti-whaling nations rather than trying to reach a compromise between conservationists and whalers.
The issue has fractured the IWC for decades and there appears to be no room for compromise on either side.
The conference ends Sept. 14.