The end to large-scale, industrial whaling was achieved in 1986 and is seen as one of the great victories of the environment movement. But this achievement might be undone by negotiations currently underway.
Commercial whaling could be set for a comeback after closed-door negotiations between 12 countries, including Japan and Australia, resulted in a proposal to open the floodgates to whaling once more.
The proposal would amend the schedule to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules for a period of 10 years. While it's proposed that the so-called "scientific" whaling loophole be closed, quotas would also be introduced for commercial Japanese whaling.
It's been said the quotas will be lower than existing whaling takes, thereby saving whales. But, this proposal also effectively legitimises Japanese whaling, opening the door for more countries to put a case for undertaking full-blown commercial whaling.
At this stage, the proposal has been released as a draft consensus document, with further discussions to take place. Australia is a member of the 12-nation closed door talks and was closely involved in negotiating the proposal.
» Full text of the international proposal [PDF]
But the Australian Government has been working on its own proposal to phase out scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean over a five-year period. The government has given Japan an ultimatum, saying it will take the country to court over whaling if this all remains unresolved by November 2010.
However, the whole basis of Australia's legal challenge could be thrown into doubt if the proposed international deal is signed at the IWC meeting this June.
Sadly, the momentum seems to be going the way of the whalers ... at least for the moment.
What do you think?
Has the Australian Government gone soft on Japanese whaling? Do you think it will follow through with its promise to bring legal action against Japan over whaling?