A deal that could regulate whaling for the next 10 years is up for debate at the International Whaling Commission's meeting opening in Agadir, Morocco. The proposal would see Iceland, Japan and Norway given annual quotas with hunts more tightly scrutinised, while international trade could be banned. Some anti-whaling countries and some conservation groups support the idea, while others are implacably opposed. Few observers are prepared to predict whether the deal will be approved. The week-long annual meeting in Agadir marks the final stage in a two-year US-led process that has seen bitter foes such as Australia and Japan working together in attempts to find areas of compromise. Australia's commissioner to the IWC, Donna Petrachenko, argued that as things stand, the deal would undermine the commercial whaling moratorium that has been in place since 1986. "The moratorium must remain in place," she said. "And what we see in this proposal would be sanctioning of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean, in a whale sanctuary; and commercial whaling in the North Pacific and commercial whaling in the North Atlantic." On the other side of the divide, whaling countries accused the anti-whaling bloc of not accepting the legitimacy of their concerns. "There are basically two groups of countries, one in favour of sustainable whaling and the other opposed to whaling, except for Aboriginal subsistence purposes," said Tomas Heidar, Iceland's IWC commissioner. Iceland and Australia mark the extreme ends of the spectrum of opinion on the issue; and other anti-whaling countries, such as the US, New Zealand and the majority of EU member states, appear willing to sanction a deal provided it meets their 'bottom-line' positions. Broadly speaking, this means a significant phase-down (ideally a complete phase-out) of Japan's Antarctic hunt, agreement that whale meat is for domestic use only, the end of hunting on threatened species, and the imposition of control measures such as a DNA register of meat. Whether Japan is prepared to accept a near phase-out of its Antarctic programme is possibly the biggest single factor.


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