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IWC passes Brazil project to protect whales

Map locating the main whaling nations and different species of whales caught around the world in 2017
Major whaling nations Map locating the main whaling nations and different species of whales caught around the world in 2017 AFP
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Florianopolis (Brazil) (AFP)

Tempers flared at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on Thursday as it voted to back a Brazilian proposal which would safeguard whales in perpetuity, after a bitter debate.

The biennial meeting of the 89-nation body passed the host country's "Florianopolis Declaration" which sees whaling as no longer being a necessary economic activity.

The non-binding agreement was backed by 40 countries, with 27 pro-whaling states voting against.

"We now have an important instrument to guide our path," said Brazil's commissioner Hermano Ribiero.

The declaration is meant to be a common vision for the 72-year old organization which is torn between pro- and anti-whaling countries.

"Welcome to the future," said Nicolas Entrup of Swiss-based NGO OceanCare, calling the vote a "historical reorientation" of the body, from lethal to non-lethal usage of whales.

But Antigua and Barbuda Commissioner Deven Joseph angrily dismissed the resolution as "a non-binding, irresponsible, abnormal, inconsistent, deceptive and downright wrong resolution."

"We will never reach any sort of consensus," he told the meeting, decrying the lack of consultations which he said should have taken into account the views of pro-whaling states.

"They can take this organization and send it to the abyss where whales go when they die!"

The IWC immediately began debating Japan's counter proposal for the organization. Entitled "The Way Forward," it envisages a twin-track future of conservation and commercial whaling which would be managed by a new "Sustainable Whaling Committee.

Japan currently observes an international moratorium on commercial whaling but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales every year for "scientific purposes" as well as sell the meat.

Norway and Iceland ignore the moratorium and are key supporters of Japan's bid to resume commercial whaling.

Countries on both sides of the whaling divide on Wednesday voted to renew quotas for limited whale hunts for indigenous communities in Alaska, Russia, Greenland and the Caribbean -- taking into account their cultural and subsistence needs.

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