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US moves to plug loophole for slaughter of whales
The change, which could include a protocol on scientific whaling, has however drawn criticism from conservation groups which say it would legitimize a fundamentally illegal activity.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is in charge of conservation of the mammals, has imposed the moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986 but environmentalists argue that Japan has been exploiting a legal loophole allowing whaling for scientific research.
Japan kills about 1,000 whales a year under its scientific program and then sells the meat.
But Patrick Ramage, the global whale program director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said concerns had reportedly been expressed by other anti-whaling nations at the IWC that the United States might settle for a sort of code of conduct for scientific whale hunting.
A provision in the ICRW allows member countries unilaterally to grant special permits to "kill, take, and treat" whales for the purpose of scientific research. Japan is currently the only member country conducting lethal scientific research.
The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, among leaders of the conservation lobby, question the necessity of the lethal research and object to the commercial sale of the meat derived from such activity.
There is also reportedly an effort to persuade Japan to either withdraw from or reduce its scientific whaling in the North and South Pacific in return for some sort of compromise.
"From our perspective, a compromise or negotiated solution is exactly the wrong direction to move in at this stage," Ramage said.
"Japan, Norway and Iceland -- the only three countries that want to continue whaling -- should be encouraged and gently led to embrace the emerging reality of the 21st century, which is we can make more money watching these whales than from killing them," he said.
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