This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.
Delegations from around the world attended a yearly meeting of the International Whaling Commission last month in Japan. The commission is deeply divided about the issue of whale hunting. Countries including Japan want to lift the ban on whale hunting ordered in nineteen-eighty-six. Countries including the United States support the ban.
The whaling commission defeated a proposal to permit limited whale hunting for native people in the United States and Russia. These native people depend on whale meat for food.
The commission voted to continue the worldwide ban on whale hunting. Japan has fought to end the ban on hunting some kinds of whales. Whale hunting is a cultural tradition in Japan.
Environmental groups are opposed to killing whales. But Japan says whale populations have risen sharply since the ban was established.
A year after the ban, Japan began hunting hundreds of whales. Japanese officials said these yearly hunts are necessary in order to study how whales feed and move in the oceans.
Japan is permitted to sell meat collected during these whale hunts. But opponents dispute the value of Japan's research. They say Japan is doing research in order to kill whales. They say whales can be studied without killing them.
Japan says many kinds of whales have increased quickly and are eating too many fish. It says whales are harming the fishing industry. But American experts at the conference say there is no scientific evidence that whales are causing a decrease of fish in the oceans. They say decreasing fish populations are caused by people, not whales.
This year, Japan plans to kill seven-hundred whales during hunts in Antarctic waters and the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The hunt includes one kind of whale that the World Conservation Union considers to be endangered.
The international movement against whale hunting is having an effect in Japan. Some Japanese say they no longer want to eat whale meat because it costs too much and it is no longer a popular food.
Norway is the only other major whale-hunting nation in the International Whaling Commission. Norway objected to the organization's ban on killing whales and has continued to hunt them.
This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.