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Thursday, July 3, 2008
No backing down on whaling, official says
By JUN HONGO
Japan has no intention of curbing its scientific whale hunts, a Fisheries Agency official said Wednesday in Tokyo.
"Our basic position — our need for research activities — will be the same," said Joji Morishita, director of international talks at the agency.
Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Morishita surprised reporters by calling this year's meeting of the International Whaling Committee a success.
The meeting in Chile came to a close Friday without any mutual concessions. While Japan has long advocated resuming commercial whaling, proconservation countries have criticized it for conducting "research" hunting that in 2006 yielded 4,154 tons of whale meat for human consumption.
Morishita praised the often-confrontational IWC members for agreeing to set up a working group of 24 countries to discuss coastal and scientific whaling.
The bureaucrat said the working group will likely face challenging debates, but it was a sign of progress that the IWC members agreed to "talk to each other instead of blaming" each other.
Morishita denied any legal malpractice by the government regarding a box of whale meat intercepted last month in Aomori Prefecture by Greenpeace activists, stressing that prosecutors have decided not to charge Japanese whalers in the case.
On the arrests of the two Greenpeace activists for stealing the whale meat from a trucking firm, Morishita said he has only followed the case through media reports.