(May 30, 2007)

Whale sanctuary proposal fails to get needed votes

From Reuters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A majority of nations voted on Wednesday to create a whale sanctuary in the southern Atlantic Ocean, but failed to get 75 percent of the vote needed to pass the proposal raised by Brazil and Argentina.

Every year since 1998, Brazil has proposed at the International Whaling Commission annual meeting the creation of a whale sanctuary that would extend from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa.

It has never been able to secure 75 percent of the votes.

The only two sanctuaries that exist today are in the Indian Ocean and the Antarctic, or Southern, Ocean.

Of the 77-member nations in the International Whaling Commission, 39 members voted in favor of a zone free from whaling in the south Atlantic Ocean versus 29 against. Other members abstained or did not pay dues in time to have voting rights.

Iceland, which opposes the sanctuary, said the proposal runs contrary to the commission's conventions. Pro-whaling nations argue that sanctuaries do not take into account scientific findings about growing whale stocks.

Debate over sanctuary started on Tuesday and the diplomatic tone of the meeting turned testy after pro-whaling nations raised their objections, prompting backers of the Latin American group to defend the proposal.

The proponents of a sanctuary said a whaling-free zone provides much-needed protection to foster a whale watching industry, which anti-whaling nations argue is more lucrative than killing whales for commercial purposes.

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