Whaling talks go behind closed doors By environment reporter Sarah Clarke
"A dead minke whale sits next to the Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru"
The sticking point remains over a proposal to overturn a 24-year ban on commercial whaling (Australian Customs Service, file photo)
Video: IWC deadlocked over resuming commercial whaling (Lateline)
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Within an hour of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) opening in Morocco, official talks were suspended for two days.
Representatives from more than 80 nations had gathered for the annual IWC meeting, set to be the most controversial in years.
But the deputy chair of the IWC has called for private talks to break the deadlock.
Australia is concerned by the development and says it shuts down the official process which has been underway for two years.
The sticking point remains over a proposal to overturn a 24-year ban on commercial whaling.
The package has split the anti-whaling block, with Australia now at odds with some of its former allies.
"The moratorium must remain in place and what we see in the proposal would in fact be sanctioning of commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean," Australia's IWC Commissioner Donna Petrochenko said.
But the IWC says only limited commercial whaling would be allowed. In return, Japan must cut its quota in the Southern Ocean.
Under the draft proposal, Japan would be allowed to catch 120 whales a year in its coastal waters.
Mick McIntyre from Whales Alive says the deal has split the anti-whaling nations.
"This is a deal that's being supported by what we once called our allies," he said.
"Pro-conservation countries like the US and New Zealand - how did this happen?"
Most contentious is allowing Japan to kill 10 endangered fin whales for the next five years, which is against the advice of the IWC's own scientific committee.
"There's no doubt fin whales have a long way to go in their recovery as do all virtually, if the whale's in the Southern Ocean," Australian Antarctic Division's spokesman Nick Gales said.
Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett says the Australian Government cannot accept the compromise.
"Australia must be successful in opposing this shabby deal," he said.
"If such a deal were to go through, Australians would need to resign themselves to watching the slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean year after year over the next decade."
This meeting is the most controversial in years.
As well as trying to negotiate a way forward for this deadlocked organisation, the IWC is also under pressure to investigate allegations its deputy chair had his hotel bill paid for by Japan and delegates are being offered prostitutes in return for their vote
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